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Monday, May 30, 2016

Skate park, nature center and bike trails re-emerge in new city plan

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Several familiar quality-of-life projects resurface in the new Strategic Plan adopted by the Storm Lake City Council Monday evening.

A skatepark, nature interpretive center and bike trails in the city and county are listed as proposed "action steps" to help make the city a visitor destination - although none of those projects are currently funded.

A group of young people will present a 300-signature online petition to the council on Feb. 16 calling for development of a skatepark. The skatepark was proposed as part of the original AWAYSIS development, but was never funded due to budget limitations, although city officials say they are still willing to discuss a project if there is public demand. In their strategic plan, they list a July date as a target for completing research.

According to spokesperson Shawn Steemke, the youth group is looking at the small park area behind the police station as a possible first choice for a location. Both the size and the cost of the project could be trimmed considerably from the original architect's proposal that was part of AWAYSIS, Steemke feels.

The park is needed to create a safe place for skateboarders and BMX bikers, so that young people will have something to do and will not be pursuing their recreation in the streets or being chased off other properties, he said.

The interpretive center was also part of the original AWAYSIS plan, but was set aside at the time due to a lack of funding for the $7 million proposed development.

Original committee member Jeff Kestel said a group has resumed meeting and is formulating a structure for the project, which has not changed substantially from the original. City Development Director Mike Wilson is now working with the group. The center would most likely be located on the edge of the Little Storm Lake preserve, and would seek to educate people about the region's natural resources with innovative, interactive exhibits, video links to area wildlife spots, a classroom and more.

The city lists an October 2009 target date for planning.

Bike trails were also proposed as part of the AWAYSIS plan, and had been discussed in the past by both city and county officials. While no firm plan was announced, ideas had been floated to run a trail north possibly along the Highway 71 corridor, perhaps eventually hooking up with other trails into the Iowa Great Lakes. The county had at one time passed a project to run a bike trail along the south side of the lake, but has taken no action to construct the project. The city has also planned for addition of a walking path along North Lake Avenue to access the retail area at the north edge of the city.

Target dates were set for July for trails in the county, and October for trails in the city limits.

Other elements of the Strategic Goals plan include completing deveopment of tourist cabins in the campground area, which was delayed from last year, campground renovation, developing a plan for improvements to the business dstrict, and a new discussion, develoment of a destination-style holiday lighting exhibit in the Storm Lake parks system.

The tourism projects are only a small part of the plan.

Other highlights include:

* Developing a diversity training plan for the city

* Researching the possibility of expanding hours at all facilities.

* Developing a plan to best utilize minority-based focus groups.

* Employee recruitment and safety rewards programs.

* Creating a "shopping list" of incentives to attract builders and developers.

* Hiring a community activity planner/marketing director with hotel-motel tax revenue.

* Increasing participation in Iowa Lakes Corridor development efforts.

* Making a brochure for contractors to address environmentally-sensitive management of projects within the city.

* Designating "low impact" development areas to protect air and water.

* Installing "animal waste" bag dispensers in the parks and an awareness campaign against littering.

* Addressing problems caused by waterfowl gathering, including relocation of flocking gulls away from King's Pointe flocking pier.

* Considering an alternate building code to guide development of a second-story downtown housing area.

* Expanding bi-lingual library services with a full-time position.

* Extending sewer around the lake to the south side if needed to service residents there.

* Working with the Storm Lake Schools building trades program in hopes of constructing two new low-to-moderate-income homes.

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