City of Onalaska taking steps to improve waterfront - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

City of Onalaska taking steps to improve waterfront


 ONALASKA, Wis. (WXOW) - Residents in the city of Onalaska are just minutes away from the scenic beauty of the Mississippi River.

City officials hope to make the waterfront more inviting to both residents and tourists.  The city is putting plans in place to re-develop its waterfront area near Main Street and Highway 35.

They have hired SEH, an engineering and planning company, to see what improvements can be made to the waterfront area. 

They want to focus on recreational improvements, to put to use what officials say is an underused resource in the community.

Mary Cody has been a local business owner for 18 years. She owns Mary Cody's Restaurant and Maggie's Lounge, both located on Main Street. She said she's been waiting for improvements for 18 years.

Mary described the waterfront area as a hidden gem, that not many people know about. Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen said "The river in Onalaska is greatly under utilized."

Officials want to make recreational improvements to the waterfront area specifically from the Lake Onalaska spillway to the Wittenberg marsh.

The city is using a master plan from six years ago to get preliminary ideas of what improvements could be made.  They want to focus on recreational things like a boardwalk, bike and pedestrian paths, and a boat dock, to name a few.

A formal feasibility study will be done to identify any issues or approvals needed since some of that land is owned by the Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and most of it is in the flood plain.

Brea Grace, the city's Land Use and Development Director, said SEH will do the study, as well as make engineering plans for the improvements.

A major concern that officials have is keeping people safe around the railroad tracks that are adjacent to that area.  The city also wants to make sure that the public is fully involved in the decision making process. This coming Fall they will have a three-day open planning and development session, called a Charette, where the public can give their own design input.

The city hopes to have a master plan complete by the end of this year. A portion of the funding for the improvements will come from the city's Capital Improvement Plan.

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