McGregor groups provide annual updates

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Several groups who receive funding from the city of McGregor provided their annual updates to the McGregor Council at its Jan. 16 meeting. 

Rebuilding year for city’s parks 

“2018 was a rebuilding year for our parks,” much as it was for the rest of the community following the 2017 tornado, said McGregor Park Board President Maria Brummel. 

Twenty-eight trees were planted in the city’s parks in 2018, replacing those that were damaged or destroyed. Brummel is hopeful more can be added in Cannon Park, near St. Mary’s Catholic Church, this year. 

Other 2018 accomplishments included the dedication of Determination Park in honor of Dave Breitbach, a long-time park board member who was instrumental in creating the park in the Ridgewood West Subdivision. Fundraising continued for the Turner Park splash pad project, with successful events like the Earth Day celebration, fun run and hog roast, summer tour of homes and fall chili cook-off. 

Brummel said one of the changes for 2019 will be the discontinuation of the music in the park series, due to waning attendance. 

“We’ll suspend it for a few years,” she told the council. “Hopefully, absence will make the heart grow fonder.” 

She asked the city to instead allocate the $800 earmarked for the music toward the summer outdoor movies, which will be held in the new Roger Witter memorial pocket park, in the lot next to the McGregor Public Library. The lot was donated to the city by Fred Petrie and Melanie San Fillippo following the 2017 tornado. 

In Triangle Park, Brummel said restoration is currently underway on the fountain. It has been removed and will be reinstalled this spring. 

Chamber plans event changes 

According to executive director Kristie Austin, 2018 was a busy year for the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce. Membership increased and, thanks to funds raised from the Prairie du Chien Chamber’s fall 2017 tailgate fundraiser following the tornado, the chamber has been able to offer a variety of marketing and social media classes to members, at no cost. Austin said the classes will continue in 2019, and encourages businesses to take advantage of the opportunity. 

Regional business studies were conducted in both Clayton County and across the Mississippi River, in Crawford County, last year. Austin said the resources and statistics gained from those studies will help the chamber and its members gain more networking opportunities, learn about succession planning and address workforce shortages and issues. 

In 2019, Austin said McGregor and Marquette will continue working together to become redesignated as an “Iowa Great Place.” Residents can help with that by attending a visioning meeting at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, in Marquette, on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 6 p.m. 

Also this year, people will see some changes and additions to some community events. Austin said that will include a lumberjack competition during one of the fall arts and crafts festival weekends. She hopes the activity will be a precursor to a Scottish Highland Games event capitalizing on MacGregor heritage. With the help of the Friends of Pikes Peak State Park group, the chamber also plans to bring back GRRR (Great River Road Race) this fall. 

Library serves as gathering space

McGregor Public Library Director Michelle Pettit reported that the library had 1,828 registered users in 2018, along with 9,849 visits. Nearly 1,500 downloadable materials were borrowed from the online site BRIDGES, an increase from 2017.

Many people continued to participate in the library’s free programs for both children and adults. The library also served as a gathering place.

“There was a lot of library meeting room use,” Pettit said, with at least one or two groups utilizing the space each week.

In addition, the library helped with 969 information requests. Pettit said a new printer/copier/fax machine donated by the Sny Magill Ice Fisheree committee helps with that.

A library space needs assessment was completed last year, thanks to a $3,000 grant from the state of Iowa. The assessment determined more seating and shelving are needed at the library, and although there are no immediate renovation plans, Pettit noted it will be helpful to have that data.

In 2019, she said the library will look forward to adding more storage. Joe Dodgen plans to construct a shed on the property for his Eagle Scout project.

Art center ready to purchase building

Bonnie Pruett, board treasurer for the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts, said the art center saw a growth in both programming and retail at The Left Bank Shop and Gallery in 2018. Sixty-five regional artists displayed their work last year, bringing in $53,700 in sales. 

That should grow in 2019, when The Left Bank begins offering online sales.

“We hope that will be a big step forward for us,” Pruett remarked.

Several of the retail gallery artists demonstrated their art mediums at The Left Bank during summer and fall, much to the delight of visitors. Some artists teach the art center’s winter art workshops, which were enjoyed by over 60 people a year ago. Eighty local students also unleashed their creativity at the art center, by participating in the 2018 Arts After School Program.

Last year, the art center completed its historic photo mural project, treating both residents and visitors to a neat display on the side of the Steve’s Silver Dollar building.

Moving forward, Pruett said the board of directors is working on the purchase of the art center building on Main Street from the Merrill Gruber Trust.

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