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Kinni Corridor talks recreation, tourism, and economics

Kinni Corridor Project "Tech Talk" 6 panelists answer questions from the audience Thursday, Sept. 7. From left are Bob Kost, Patrick Seeb, and Ed Freer. Gretta Stark / RiverTown Multimedia.

The River Falls Public Library's lower level meeting space was packed Thursday, Sept. 7 as the Kinni Corridor Project Committee hosted the final of six "Tech Talks."

This talk's theme was recreation, tourism and economics, and featured three speakers, including:

• Ed Freer, of SEH, the consulting company working on the Kinni Corridor Project.

• Patrick Seeb, director of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency in Rochester, Minn.

• Bob Kost, of SEH, who spoke about the planning charrette set for Oct. 25-28.

Each speaker was given time to share information, then answered a few audience questions.

Though there was not time to answer each question, Kinni Corridor Project representatives said each question will be answered online at kinni corridor.org.

Ed Freer

Tourism, Freer said, is one of the largest and cleanest global industries.

"It's environmentally friendly," he said. "It promotes conservation and preservation."

Tourism creates jobs, reduces migration to urban areas and celebrates authenticity.

"My advice to a lot of small towns," Freer said. "I'd design your town as if you wanted to go there for vacation."

The idea, he said, is to entice people to want to spend their time — and their money — in River Falls. He said about $646 billion is spent each year in outdoor recreation in the U.S.

Patrick Seeb

Seeb spoke about his work with the Destination Medical Center of Rochester. That project's goal is to increase medical tourism to Rochester. People coming from all over the world to seek medical care at the Mayo Clinic also spend time and money in Rochester, he said.

"While our cities are very different in many ways, there are similarities in what compels us as communities to... think ahead," Seeb said.

Destination Medical Center is about making Rochester a "premiere destination for health and wellness." Rochester has a set of core values such as "health and wellness, people first, place-based, and innovation" surrounding its Destination Medical Center project.

He said it's important for River Falls to figure out what its core values are, and how they will help shape future projects.

"The most important thing that will come of the work you're doing as a community is a common understanding, a shared appreciation for the kind of values that are reflected in this community," he said. "Every decision you make, every investment decision you make in this community should be measured against those values."

Bob Kost

Kost described the design charrette process to the crowd.

"An inclusive hands-on process that harnesses the talent and energies of citizens, decision makers and designers to create supportable, feasible plans for making great places," Kost said.

The charrette is set for Oct. 25-28 at the library.

Throughout the 3.5- day charrette, design staff will be at the library in a public space working on designs.

The charrette will include discussions and some preliminary designs based on information already gathered from the community.

Those who participate in the charrette will get a chance to share input on designs as they're made.

Throughout the whole process, the designers will be designing in a studio set up in the library. People will be able to watch designers work, ask questions and offer input. The charette is open to the public.

Kost said this will not be the only time the community will have a chance to take part in an interactive planning type session.

Q&A

Seeb was asked about the importance of young people in communities, versus the importance of the older generation.

"The older I get, the more I want to hang out with young people," Seeb said, adding that older generations would feel invigorated around younger people.

One audience member asked if dam removal would reduce recreation activities on the river.

The speakers said no, that would not be the case. The river is constantly changing, they said. The Kinni Corridor Project process is about discovering what uses will be available in each scenario for what may happen with the river, whether the dams are removed or not.

Every question asked at the Tech Talk is set to be answered online. For more information, including videos of the Tech Talks, visit kinnicorridor.org.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048
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