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Lake City to highlight what it has to offer

Andrea Hamilton, executive director of the Lake City Area Chamber of Commerce, talks about plans the city has for a new interpretive center and other things to move the city forward Tuesday during a Post-Bulletin Community Conversation visit to the city.

LAKE CITY — Lake City wants to joins scores of other cities along the Great River Road by building an interpretive center to highlight the city's history, arts and natural resources.

It would be built at the site of a now-closed service station on U.S. 61 within a few hundred feet of the Lake City Marina, the largest on the Mississippi River, Andrea Hamilton, executive director of the Lake City Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday during a Post-Bulletin Community Conversation on the upper deck of the paddlewheeler Pearl of the Lake.

The Great River Road connects the beginning of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota with its end at the Gulf of Mexico and includes cities along the river in this region, including Lake City. Many towns use centers to show off, and help explain, their history and what they have to offer, she said. Lake City is planning to join them because it has a lot to offer.

During the visit, which gives the P-B a chance to introduce some of its leaders but mostly to hear what's important to a town, several praised the Lake City area's beauty and amenities, including Lake Pepin. The town is the largest on the lake, a natural reservoir of the river.

The city also has a great educational system and is close enough to Rochester, and Mayo Clinic, for people to easily commute, they said.


But Hamilton said Lake City also has several empty storefronts and restaurants, so it's looking to expand and update itself both with tourism and with ways to help with Destination Medical Center, Mayo's massive expansion plan for the next 20 years. "We can't deny we've lost some businesses," she said.

So it's looking forward to improving with more tourism and ways to work with DMC. "Nobody has what we have in Lake City," she said.

DMC was only part of the reason for the new push, said Mary Jane Rasmussen, who is working to build a recreation trail between Lake City and Red Wing. "I think it was a lot of things," she said.

The Mississippi Blufflands Trail would connect some existing trails, such as in Frontenac State Park and the city's Hok-Si-La Park, with new sections, she said. The group is trying to incorporate as a nonprofit organization and recently received a $48,000 state planning grant, she said.

"It's all about connectivity," she said. "This is one of the prettiest areas in Minnesota."

Biking is one of the fastest growing tourism segments, she said.

One way the city is working together is the Lake City Initiative, in which about 75 people have joined "in ways we have not come together before" to move the city forward, Hamilton said.

John Hutchinson, another person trying to move the city forward, said "Lake City is aggressively working on initiatives that will improve what we have to offer" in fishing, boating, skiing, dining, shopping, camping and boating. "We think we already have a good package of attractions — we're just trying to make it that much better. "


While Lake City is looking to Mayo in Rochester to help create jobs for Lake City, Mayo also needs Lake City, said Larry Nielsen, owner of the paddlewheeler. Visitors to Mayo routinely come to Lake City to shop, eat, see the lake and ride his boat. He's had people from all 50 states and 53 countries sign his guest book. "We are pretty important to DMC too," he said.

Another thing the city and area are working on is promoting its artists, he said. He's head of Mississippi Valley Partners, a tourism promotion group for towns on both sides of Pepin and the river, and it is seeing that many artists are attracted to the area because of its beauty.

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