Planning for our future!
|Contacts these committee heads for more
Communication - Deb Kahler
Fundraising - Janelle Bradley
Iowa Great Places - Arleon Kelley Mainstreet
and Beautification - Jim Knoblach
Quality of Life - John Molumby
Economic Development - Diane Boleyn
Web Site - Stephanie Hermen
Several Elgin residents were concerned about its future. In the fall of 2007 a conversation in the Elgin Community Betterment Club (ECBC)
about the future of Elgin resulted in a recommendation that all the identifiable organizations serving the community be invited to participate in
a meeting to think about Elgin's future. It resulted in the Elgin visioning process, under the leadership of Arleon Kelley and Cathy Molumby,
began on November 1, 2007, when 55 Elginites representing twenty-one of the twenty-two Elgin area organizations first dared dream a new
vision of what Elgin might become in fifteen years. The vision that emerged was stated thus:
"we will create a preferred future for the Elgin community, which ensures it is a good place: to raise a family; recreate and play; with good
jobs; and good educational opportunities for everyone; within a culture that promotes our best values."
The dozens of visions shared in the first meeting clustered into five overarching clusters: Public Safety; Life Long Education; Mainstreet and
Community Beautification; Quality of Life; and Economic Development. The participants then chose one of the five to begin thinking about
their specific vision and next steps in that area of concern. A convener for each group emerged and an overall Steering Committee of fifteen
was chosen for the purpose of coordinating and ensuring implementation of the visions. Donna Meinhard was asked to be the Steering
Committee Convener and Arleon Kelley was asked to continue as the volunteer planning consultant (since Cathy Molumby was fully occupied
as our Valley School Superintendent).
At a second community meeting in January 2008 it was decided that 'Public Safety' be referred directly to the Elgin City Council and 'Life Long
Learning' be referred to the Valley Community Schools and the Elgin Community Library Board. Three teams of volunteers were organized for
the Work Groups: Quality of Life; Economic Development; and Mainstreet and Community Beautification to work on a sub-vision for 2023 in
that area of concern. The Visions these work groups developed are as follow:
Quality of Life
Vision: By 2023 we envision Elgin as a clean, well-kept, friendly, creative, forward looking, socially diverse community with vital institutions
and a sense of cultural excitement and economic well being that capitalizes on the recreational opportunities in the area.
Economic and Community Transformation and Development
Vision: By 2023 Elgin will be an economically vital and attractive place to live. It will be a camping, fishing and hunting destination; have new
businesses, fifteen new living wage jobs and many renovated and new homes.
Mainstreet and Community Beautification
Vision: By 2023, ever conscious of environmental values, the physical facilities Elgin will be transformed and aesthetically pleasing for
residents and visitors. We will have a re-built and beautified mainstreet, implemented a landscape plan for streets and parks and dealt
imaginatively with marginal housing and building stock in the City - especially those of historic significance.
In turn, as each team identified some things they hoped to accomplish by the end of 2008 and several more things they needed to
accomplish by the end of 2012 in order to make progress toward their 2023 vision.
Quality of Life
The Quality of Life team, chaired by John Molumby, envisioned the following work: completing a trail from Hidden Valley to the center of Elgin;
work to complete plans and funding for a connecting trail from Calmer, through Clermont to the Gilbertson County Park and Nature Center
east of Elgin. Further, the team will provide support for the completion of the Hidden Valley Community playground; provide support for the
"Heart of the Valley" medical clinic; initiate a conversation with the "Valley Community Recreation "Center"" Board to invigorate that project,
seeking grants and writing grant proposals to support the effort; communicate with the Fayette Co. Recreation Board re: facility and program
needs in the Elgin and Valley Community; ensure regular participation in the Northeast Iowa "Health and Fitness" project and the "Fayette
County Trails Committee; and support special celebrations, like "Sweet Corn Days" and the "2009 Homecoming" and plan other possibilities
that enhance community beauty and spirit.
In addition this group anticipated they would like to see: the Valley Recreation "Center" come to reality; see a plan implemented that will create
"community art" and design around some common themes in Elgin; and in collaboration with the Mainstreet and Community Beatification
effort see a complete Landscape plan for Elgin's parks and streets.
Economic and Community Transformation and Development
This work group, chaired by Diane Boleyn developed a series of tasks to complete in 2008. They said they would: complete a survey of
available business sites (It was completed); develop interpretative materials about Elgin and what it has to offer for distribution through the
County Tourism, Economic Development and through the State Tourism and Welcome Centers (It as been completed); and recruit, enable or
encourage one new business to open in Elgin (Two have opened).
In addition the team identified preparation work to be done in the near future: develop an economic marketing plan for Elgin, with three foci:
tourism, business recruitment and retention, and new residents; complete the research, lists and update information about all Elgin
businesses; explore the need for an independent Economic Development Non-Profit Corporation for the purpose of land
purchase/development and to establish a revolving loan fund for start-up businesses and expansion of current businesses; (Such a fund has
been established by serveral Elgin business persons). develop a ‘prospectus’ for business recruitment; and be in regular liaison with Fayette
Co. and State Tourism and Economic Development offices.
The economic development team will also develop a plan: to capitalize on Elgin as a fishing and hunting destination, as well as a fine place to
live or retire; develop a work-force development plan to ensure an available capable, dependable, and educated workforce to attract potential
employers; and to recruit five new businesses providing at least six good living wage jobs for the community.
In addition the group agreed to develop a Valley wide community calendar (complete); upgrade the web-site (completed); develop a plan to
upgrade communication access in Elgin, perhaps with community wide high-speed internet and wireless networks so we are an attractive
possibility for internet entrepreneurs. (Remembering that communication modes are developing so rapidly, the needs may be entirely
different by 2023); devise a consumer education project to educate folks on the economic and environmental value of buying and playing
locally; and develop a mentoring network so that current Elgin business owners and merchants can help develop and advise young/new
entrepreneurs in Elgin.
Mainstreet and Community Beautification
This team chose Jim Knobloch, a member of Elgin City Council as its convener. The team developed an ambitious agenda of work. The short-
term goals included: painting a mural on one or more buildings; building and putting flower boxes on the windows of mainstreet buildings;
and collaborating with Economic Development to complete a survey of vacant or dilapidated buildings/houses.
It became evident that until a city-wide theme, logo and motto for the city were chosen the envisioned art should probably not be
undertaken, because the art should revolve around those themes. Two grants were written hoping to secure art consultants. Both were
In the meantime this team envisioned: researching available sources of help in the design and planning of Mainstreet (Center Street) and
developing estimations of costs and potential sources of funding. From this work it will develop the critical path and timelines necessary to re-
building and beautifying Center Street; and further collaborate with the Economic Development Work Group and the "Branding" Committee to
inform the decisions about building beautification and the Quality of Life Work Group Plan for play ground, park and street beautification.
In the longer run the goals of this work team include: to enable the completion of the Mainstreet (Center Street) paving, sidewalks, lighting
and landscaping (e.g., shrubbery or trees); working with the Business/Building owners on Center Street to "spruce up" or otherwise beautify
their buildings; continue working with the Quality of Life Work Group to implement the plan for landscaping the streets, parks; upgrade at
least 50 homes largely through owner and volunteer efforts; advocate for the removal of dilapidated houses, the repair and painting of
houses not well kept and the "fill-in" with new housing where there are empty lots; working with the city and lot owners to make all sidewalks
whole; and design, and where possible, ensure Elgin streets are "complete streets", i.e., streets that accommodate pedestrians, bikes and
cars; as well as design and upgrade the city's playgrounds.
Now to anyone one who looks at the above vision will tell you these are ambitious plans, especially since Elgin has no employed implementing
staff and very little in the way of monetary resources. It does have resourceful people however. Therefore, the Steering Committee has
pursued three avenues to move toward implementation.
The first was the creation of three overarching task groups:
A Communications "hub" Committee, to build communications networks and relationships within and beyond Elgin - especially with Clermont
and Wadena; A Community Image (Branding) Committee to develop recommended themes, logos and marketing strategy for the City and
environs. What do we want to be known as, and how will we get people to visit, and what will we do to be inviting when they get here? (This
work has been done and the Steering Committee authorized development of possible logos and mottos); and A Grant Writing Committee.
This committee will work with the three Work Groups, searching for consultative and financial resources to support their work. When the
connections are made, it will prepare grant applications. (To date five applications have been made of which two were turned down.)
Secondly the Steering Committee sought the approval of these visions by the Elgin City Council and then with that approval applied with the
State of Iowa for candidacy as an "IOWA GREAT PLACE". That candidacy was granted by the state in May of 2008. Such candidacy accords
some special considerations as grants are written to the State. It has already resulted in an effort to create the Turkey River Corridor as a
Great Place. Each of the cities in the Corridor, Clermont, Elgin and Elkader would also become a Great Place and together would develop the
Turkey River Corridor as a Water Trail, for canoeing and perhaps as a white water kayaking and an akin bike and walking trail. The three
communities believe the recreational opportunities the River this would create could become an economic boon for the whole area and could
connect us to a trail system that potentially could go from the Mississippi River Trail at Guttenberg to Calmer and perhaps hook into the
northern Iowa trail system from New Albin to Decorah and on to Cresco.
Finally, the City Council has agreed to entertain a proposal from MSA Engineering, its long time consulting engineers, to develop either a
master plan or at least a plan for the mainstreet development and beautification project. That will be discussed at a City Council Meeting on
December 15, 2008.
On the date this is written, December 12, 2008, we all wonder - what will be the result of all this work? We believe many of our dreams will be
realized. Elgin can continue to be a fine place to live, raise your family and get old. We believe Elgin can continue to be economically viable,
culturally rich and embrace the values we so want for our families. We will find our niche as a fine place to live, work and play. We will be
prepared for the best the 21st century has to offer.
Dr. Arleon L. Kelley, Volunteer 2023 Consultant
Dr. Donna Meinhard, 2023 Steering Committee Convener.
| Our Successes in the first Four Years of Elgin the “Elgin 2023” Processes
1. In November of 2008 a group on about 65 interested Elgin citizens came together to ‘dream’ and envision what
Elgin might look like and become by 2023 – 15 years later. We dreamed big
• We dreamed that:
o Elgin will be a rural community that offers the highest quality of life for both young families and retirees.
o That we would sustain our community’s population base by continuing to develop a strong economic base
so businesses and families could thrive in Elgin.
• From the more than 100 dreams we narrowed them down to some priorities. In order to implement these
dreams we would begin by seeking to:
o Develop recreational facilities by improving our ballpark, our parks – both downtown and in new
neighborhoods - and develop trails or sidewalks, so all parts of the city are connected.
o Modernize Center Street so it would be an attractive place for business – new streetscape and a new
o Attract at least four our five new business, including restaurants.
o Update our utilities infrastructure
o Develop bike trails
o Upgrade existing housing
o Install some community art
o Develop a participatory means for citizen participation in implementation of this development and renewal
o Be attentive to the educational needs of the community and the Valley Community Schools – and particularly
life long learning opportunities.
2. How would we do this?
Building Relationships and Partnership
• Under the auspices of the “Elgin Community Betterment Club” establish an “Elgin 2023” Steering Committee
to work with the Dreams of November 2008 to find ways to implement them.
• By soliciting the backing and partnership with the City Council
• By exploring State and County Resources which resulted in Strategic Partnerships
o In Winter of 1999 applying for an Iowa Cultural Affairs “Great Places” designation
o Applying for a relationship with Iowa University’s Community Design program
o Applying for assistance by “Trees Forever” and its community design program
o By talking with the Departments of Transportation, Agriculture and Natural Resources to explore their
various programs for smaller cities
o Inviting Fayette Co. Natural Resources and Economic Development assistance
o Developing a relationship with Upper Exploreland
• By mobilizing the citizenry – into task groups
o A Hidden Valley self formed to build a park and trails
o A working group on the downtown park formed to plant new trees, modernize the band shell
• By participating in the formation of “Great Places”. We were told Elgin was too small – and perhaps not
unique enough by itself to be a “Great Place” Instead they suggested that Clermont, Elkader join with Elgin to
form the “Turkey River Recreational Corridor” and in turn, a relationship with Upper Exploreland – our regional
planning and resource conduit agency.
This “Great Places” partnership has resulted in:
• the Turkey River becoming a water trail
• the completion of a hard surface bike trail from west of Claremont to Elgin, with plans for it completion from
Gilbertson Park to Motor Mill
• Summer activities along the Turkey
• Several new launching sites for canoes and kayaks
By working with the City Council to Develop a Comprehensive Community Plan – without which we could not
qualify for many state and federal grants.
• The City Council contracted with MSA to take the input from the Iowa University Community Design, Trees
Forever and other community interactive processes to develop an Elgin Comprehensive plan. The Plan that was
adopted by the City Council embodied the dreams for Elgin’s future.
• With a Comprehensive Plan in hand it made it possible for the city to attract Federal, State, regional and
County grants. MSA was able to secure the water, sewerage, surface water, marginal housing upgrades, and the
complete renovation of Center Street.
In the meantime “Elgin 2023” steering committee raised money and volunteer resources for matching grants
required by several projects – like the:
• Clock Tower, Plaza and Fountain.
• for the Bike Trails (linking Clermont, Elgin, Elkader and Motor Mill);
• Planting and trees in the parks,
• economic development, by doing a business facilities assessment, and business recruitment, and
• providing a liaison with Hidden Valley projects.
3. Now, in 2013, after completing four years of work toward the fulfillment of the dreams of the “Elgin 2023”
process we have a great many successes to celebrate.
• Citizen participation was ensured by establishing an “Elgin 2023” Steering Committee.
• A partnership was formed with the Elgin City Council.
• A Comprehensive Community Plan for Elgin was developed through the auspices of MSA completed and
adopted and by contract with MSA
• The water system has been upgraded with new wells, meters, etc.
• The sewerage system has been upgraded
• The surface water drainage difficulties have been solved for the western part of the city by creating a new
“wetland” and it is anticipated will be for the downtown when Center street is finished.
• Several houses have been upgraded to meet “code” and others torn down.
• The Streetscape for Center Street was designed and is now being completed
The park in Hidden Valley has been completed
• The Hidden Valley to downtown trail is partially completed.
The downtown park has been upgraded with:
• A new “ plaza” with an Elgin ‘landmark’ Clock Tower and water fountain.
• New trees planted – but did not survive because of lack of summer rain and not watered
• The band shell updated and painted.
• New lighting secured, but not yet installed
• The six other parks’ plantings have been maintained by volunteers
The Bike Trail
• Matching monies in the amount of $100,000 were raised so The “Bike Trail” from west of Clermont to
downtown Elgin, enabling the Fayette County DNR and Roads department to complete this section of the trail and
build one new bridge over the Turkey River.
• A new Mural has been installed on the Historical Building in the Downtown park along with historical artifacts
• A new Mural has been installed on the Knobloch Building in Lutra
Bridge and Sidewalk
• The Otter Creek Bridge has been completed
• A side walk has been completed from the new Otter Creek Bridge up to Riverview Ct.
The Schools –
• Whole grade sharing with North Fayette
• Partnering with PIE to raise monies for a new elementary school playground at Valley School
4. Conversations now underway for future development
• Traffic flow from the East end of Center Street over to Main Street
• A dedicated Bike Bridge over the Turkey River into Gilbertson Park
• Raising money to install the lighting in the Park
• New Facades of the Center Street business buildings
5. The Proposal
The ECBC and “Elgin 2023” partner with the City Council, the MSA and the various contractors to sponsor a
“Center Street Ribbon Cutting and Community Celebration” perhaps on an appropriate date before Thanksgiving,
so as not to compete with the Christmas activities but not to be too far after the actual opening of Center Street.
• River Cutting Ceremony with Town Officials and the contractors.
• Street Dance – perhaps with a band – or utilizing the Clock Tower Speaker System
• Followed by Brats and Beer – utilizing a Center Street space – perhaps Torkelson’s Showroom – or in the
Submitted by: Bob Zurbriggen, Ivan Torkelson and Arleon Kelley in behalf of ECBC and “Elgin 2023”
Summary Compiled by: Arleon Kelley