Residents share vision for Marquette and McGregor

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Bonnie Basemann (left), Rogeta Halvorson, Katie Ruff, Jenna Pollock, Alicia Mullarkey and Steve Weipert were among those who shared their vision for Marquette and McGregor on Feb. 13, as part of the Great Places re-designation process for the communities. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Residents shared their vision for Marquette and McGregor on Feb. 13, as part of the Great Places re-designation process for the communities. 

Marquette and McGregor first received the joint Great Places designation from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs 10 years ago. The program’s goal is to support the development of new and existing infrastructure intended to cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of neighborhoods, communities and regions in Iowa. 

“The original designation was a really humongous undertaking,” said Mallory Hanson, regional tourism and economic development coordinator with Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, who helped facilitate the visioning session. “But it paid off. A lot of great things came from it,” including Marquette’s Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, where last week’s event was held. 

Hanson said communities usually accomplish a number of projects within the first few years of designation. Eventually, though, they’re asked to recharge and demonstrate that they’re still working to fulfill those original goals. 

“McGregor and Marquette are already great, but you want to stay great,” she told those gathered. “There’s an incentive to revamp what you’re doing, show the state what you’re doing and talk about your vision plan.” 

“And we need input from the community to decide where we’re going and how we want to enhance our communities,” added McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristie Austin, who’s helping to lead the re-designation efforts. “All ideas are welcome.” 

Around 30 people attended the visioning session, and were split up into four small groups to share their thoughts on three different questions. The notes were then compiled at the end of the evening. 

Hanson said it was important to note that Marquette and McGregor are a regional Great Place. 

“It’s not just Marquette or McGregor,” she explained. “It’s a region of both communities together. One voice.” 

The first question asked participants what they love about Marquette and McGregor—what brought them to the area and what keeps them in the area. 

Proximity to family and friends was the overriding answer. People also referenced the Mississippi River and the area’s natural beauty and outdoor opportunities. They like the friendliness, slow pace and safety the small towns offer. 

Question number two gauged what residents do—and where they go—during their free time. 

One of the top answers was recreational activities like kayaking and boating on the river, as well as hiking and biking at Pikes Peak State Park, Effigy Mounds National Monument and trails within and around Marquette and McGregor. People enjoy photographing the natural beauty or simply sitting on their front porches, around a fire pit or at the riverfront, soaking in the scenery. 

Participants also like to frequent the quaint shops and restaurants in Marquette and McGregor and visit cultural locations like the museums, art center and Wetlands Centre. 

The final question prompted attendees to share what they wish Marquette and McGregor had. 

A common thread was additional winter activities for both locals and tourists. People also want to see rental opportunities for winter gear like ice skates and snowshoes. In the summer, they wish there were rentals for bikes, kayaks, canoes—even fishing equipment. 

“People are hungry to be on the river,” Hanson said, “but they don’t know how.” 

Trails were a popular suggestion too, especially trails that connect the two communities to one another and to other resources. People noted a need for more areas to bike with kids, better riverfront utilization and a fenced-in dog park. 

Others called for more lodging opportunities and community spaces, along with additional historic preservation and restoration efforts. Some people hope for more cultural diversity through events, festivals, music and public art. 

“You can see connections and cohesive ideas,” noted Hanson. 

Now, it will be up to the visioning committee to set attainable projects, goals and strategies based on the feedback. 

“This brings to light some things that can be possible,” she added.

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