Onalaska residents give input on Waterfront Redevelopment Projec - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Onalaska residents give input on Waterfront Redevelopment Project

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Onalaska, WI (WXOW) - - After years in the talking and planning stages, it is nearly decision time in Onalaska for decisions regarding waterfront development.

The city wants to make sure the public plays a major role.

The Waterfront Committee held a community meeting Wednesday night to tell residents about the project and get their input.

About 50 interested and inquisitive residents showed up. Some of them were definitely ready for the waterfront area to be a focal point of the city. Others were more leery about potential costs of the development.

Taking better advantage of the natural beauty of the area is one of the goals of the project. Drawing residents and tourists towards Onalaska's waterfront is another. Adding recreational opportunities is what the Waterfront Committee hopes will bring people in.

"It's separated from the community and we're trying to connect the community to the waterfront," said Erik Sjolander, Chair of the Waterfront Committee.

Things like a small fishing pier, a boardwalk, and improving access to the Black River are all on the list of ways to redevelop the land. While the planning process is just beginning, the idea behind it all has been in the works for a while.

In 2008 the city came up with a Master Plan that incorporated redeveloping the waterfront but nothing ever came of it, partly due to the economic downturn.

Now, six years later the city has hired a consulting firm to help figure out what is feasible for the project to make sure that this time it's successful, and this time community input is at the heart of the plan.

Katie Rick is the Director of the annual log rolling tournament in the Black River, where the redevelopment will take place. She said, "As a community member I'd love to see more paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing."

But obstacles remain before that can happen. Among them, how to create a handicap accessible road. Right now the road is sloped and not accessible to everyone. Also, the area is in the flood plain so any development must be flood plain compliant.

"It's a unique environment, a lot of challenges but a lot of opportunities," said Brea Grace the city's Land Use and Development Director.

A portion of the funding for the improvements will come from the city's capital improvement plan.

The Waterfront Committee didn't decide anything at the community meeting, they just wanted to begin the process and get community input.

A three day intense period of planning and designing will take place September 29th through October 1st starting with a public meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, September 29 in the Community Room at Irving Pertzsch Elementary.

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