Connecting trails was a major topic of discussion at Iola’s third annual Roundtable.
Extending its trail system to nearby trails would be an asset for the Iola area, according to George Kriewaldt.
He noted Iola is very close to some big trail systems like the Tomorrow River Trail and the Ice Age Trail.
“We should extend the trail to Scandinavia on the old railroad bed,” Kriewaldt said. “That would bring people into town.”
“The important thing is we will have the River Walk in Iola,” said Clifford Mishler.
He announced that the River Walk will be completed by early summer. Currently the boardwalks and bridges are done, but the trails still need to be cut.
“We wanted to be open by Memorial Day, but the weather isn’t cooperating,” he said.
This is phase one of the River Walk, according to Village President Joel Edler.
“The next phase will eventually more than double the River Walk,” he said. “My goal as village president was to get phase one and phase two done.”
Edler said the next phase of the plan is to extend the Iola trail to Scandinavia. The question would be what route to take because much of the railroad bed reverted to previous landowners.
Road work this summer
Access to Iola will be limited this summer with road work scheduled for State Highways 161 and 49.
According to Edler, the project will begin after the July 11-14 Iola Old Car Show.
The Highway 161 road work will begin at County Road J and the Highway 49 work will begin at Anderson Road.
Edler reported that Town Line Road was scheduled to be completed in April, but that project has also been delayed by the weather. He noted the bridge structure is in place, but the roadway is not ready for traffic.
The late spring will also delay the refilling of Lake Iola, according to Tom Fucik of the Iola Mills.
Currently he is waiting for a valve to be installed in a manhole over the village’s storm sewer line. He explained this new device will help move more silt during big storm events.
Fucik hopes the valve will be placed soon.
“I would like to get started early so we can capture some of this (spring) runoff and fill the lake faster,” he said.
“We are not just refilling the lake, but we also need to saturate lots of soil way beyond the surface of the lake.”
The following are some of the comments made by those attending the Roundtable, held Tuesday, March 19, at the Iola Old Car Show Activity Center.
The Iola Winter Sports Club (IWSC) had one of its best years ever, according to IWSC President Darcy Oligney. He said the nonprofit organization looks forward to at least another week of skiing.
“Right now everybody else has stopped grooming, but we will probably groom four more times,” IWSC member Phil Jonsrud said. “We don’t make money (on late-season skiing), but the people come back.”
The lighted cross country ski trails bring in people from Chicago, Milwaukee and other outside areas, according to IWSC member Greg Loescher.
Jonsrud noted that a lot of local skiers don’t sign in every time.
Iola Living Assistance, Inc. (ILA) has an $11.5 million impact on the area, according to Greg Loeser, ILA administrator.
“The corporation had a successful year in 2012 and paid off some significant debt,” Loeser said.
The corporation operates Living Oaks (assisted living), Butternut Ridge (senior apartments) and Iola Living Assistance (assisted living).
Living Oaks will celebrate its 5th anniversary in October.
“(Recent) acquisitions have been a good thing for the company and 2012 was challenging,” said Mark Sether, of Premier Community Bank.
He reported that the bank added new branches during 2012 and reduced hours at its Scandinavia branch.
“With online banking, the need for branches four miles apart probably is no longer needed,” he said.
Dorothy Shaver reported that 2013 will be the 12th year for the Iola Children’s Garden. She expressed appreciation for the help received from the Iola Lioness, Premier Community Bank, Waupaca County Master Gardeners and the Village of Iola.
“We always need help,” she said.
According to Shaver, more signage is needed to help people locate the community garden.
The Iola Historical Society continues to grow every year, according to Clifford Mishler. The society’s next expansion plan is for a resource center to preserve its archives. Mishler estimated the cost of this project to be $12,000-$15,000.
Tony Neumann said the T-Bird Booster Club was created to support the student body and not just sports.
“It has far exceeded my expectations in its first year,” he said. “In the long run, taxpayers will see a difference.”
Fucik reported that the first floor of Iola Mills should be open sometime this summer.
“We’re getting closer,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a big project.”
A different perspective was taken by Keith Williams of First National Bank. After stating that it is “one of the more successful banks in the state,” he offered an idea to increase security in Iola.
Williams suggested there should be security cameras placed on a few corners in the downtown area. He feels these cameras would have helped law enforcement solve some of the robberies that have occurred recently.
“Our town is small enough to have a few well-placed cameras,” he said.
According to Williams, the cameras would be a safety measure and not an invasion of privacy.
He asked for community support and private funds to help finance the project, indicating he already had enough donations to purchase at least one security camera.
Dave Thiel David Thiel, Waupaca County Economic Development Corporation (WCEDC) director, reported that the countywide tourism project is focusing its advertising on cable TV and outside markets.
They are using a strategy known as behavioral targeting. He said this involves “figuring out who’s coming here so we can target them.”
“Will you be addressing the roadblocks?” Mishler asked. “Tourism (marketing) always focuses just on business, not on the overall community.”
“We will now be doing this from a base of cooperation of all eight communities,” Thiel said. “It won’t be done with the idea of ‘protecting our own’ anymore.”
As far as community development, Loescher reported that downtown Iola has only one empty storefront.
As president of the Iola-Scandinavia Chamber of Commerce, he encouraged everybody to “buy local.”
“There are a lot of good things going on in our community,” he said. “But nonprofits should support local businesses so things don’t snowball the wrong way.”
“Think of the cost and time spent driving elsewhere (to buy something),” he added. “You haven’t saved any money.”
He expressed appreciation to the I-S School District for supporting local businesses by purchasing $5,000 worth of chamber bucks. Within two months, $3,000 of these chamber bucks have been used.