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Large Crowd At FIT Informational Meeting

By Staff | Oct 1, 2009

With people standing along the walls of the auditorium at Iowa Lakes Community College, over 170 area residents asked questions and had the proposed Five Island Recreational Trail explained on Thursday night, Sept. 24. Comments from members of the audience were also taken at the conclusion of the meeting.

Jolene Rogers, a member of the Iowa Lakes Community College staff, served as the facilitator of the meeting for the evening. Members of the Five Island Trail Committee, Steve Hoyman, Tammy Naig, Joel Fanz, Steve Heldt, Marilyn Gappa and Scott Wirtz were on hand along with Palo Alto County Conservation Board Executive Director Steve Pitt and Jim Thiesse, a civil engineer working for the committee. Also present in the auditorium were members of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors, Ed Noonan, Jerry Hofstad, Ron Graettinger and Leo Goeders, along with County Auditor Gary Leonard.

Scott Wirtz opened the meeting by welcoming the crowd, “Seeing you all here tonight reminds me of the genuine care and concern we all have for this great community.”

Wirtz went on to point out the many success stories in the community of community-based projects such as the Smith Wellness Center, hospital additions, school additions, Wild Rose Casino and others. “Each one of these projects has had issues. Each one of these projects was a change. Each one of these projects asked community members to sacrifice, personally, for the common good. But I think you would agree that in the end, they have been beneficial to our community.”

Wirtz continued, “So tonight, we are here to discuss a recreational trail. The trail is a vision of a group of individuals, volunteering their time to give Emmetsburg, and Palo Alto County, one more reason why it is a great place to live.”

It was pointed out that the planning process has been ongoing for many years, studying the best location and safest route that could best serve the most people.

“The committee has grown to approximately 30 members, and just like in the entire community, we all have different ideas on what is right and best,” Wirtz admitted. “We don’t always agree, but we work hard to understand other viewpoints, communicate, and work through the issues at hand and try to make the recreational trail the best product we can produce.”

Taking note of the fact that the issue had created strong emotions both pro and con, Wirtz acknowledged that such conditions were nothing new to the community and its citizens. “We have come together on many occasions to create and construct projects which enhance our community and its growth. We have high hopes that this meeting can bring differing ideas and hopes together in a constructive way to best serve our community now, and in the future.”

Thiesse, who attended the Emmetsburg Community Schools and graduated in 1979, explained the project’s history. An engineer with Kruse, Cate and Nelson of Spencer, Thiesse first became involved in the project in May of 2008 to research some right-of-way issues, route designs and meetings.

“The committee asked me if I felt this was a viable project, and I jumped at the opportunity, because I think, from my perspective as a trail designer and engineer, this project has a lot of the attributes that you look for in a trail project,” Thiesse said. “This will be a multi-use recreational trail, with target users being families of all types and ages.”