Letter: City needs 4-part approach to downtown

To the editor:

As I read the current tourism assessment of the downtown Shawano by Roger Brooks, CEO of a tourism consulting firm, it appears there is much room for improvement to enhance tourism in our community. It appears to be time to bring back the Wisconsin Main Street program we used in the 1980s.

I was a downtown business owner who worked with downtown business leaders, Shawano Chamber of Commerce, mayor and city council, and numerous volunteers to clear land, design and develop the Spirit of Shawano Park as the central focus plaza welcoming everyone downtown. We implemented the Shawano Main Street Program and then formed the Shawano Business Improvement District board.

It is time to return to this four-part strategy of business recruitment and retention, marketing, business facade and signage, and promotion of our downtown.

The Spirit of Shawano park has lost its charisma, is weedy and looks neglected. It needs large evergreen trees behind the statues to show them off, with night accent lighting on them, and large colorful planters with bright flowers. A tall three-tier fountain, like the one now at Qualheim’s, would add the vitality needed. Let’s involve our Master Gardeners to weed, feed and maintain the planters. Also, the hanging planters look colorful in spring when hung but need to be fertilized to maintain their bright colors; they are now dull and look neglected.

Next year, return the farmers market to downtown using either the parking lot next to the downtown parks, or connect with all the green space at Huckleberry Harbor to bring the public from the harbor back to downtown with inviting benches, maintained planters and walkways. Stop spending money on Franklin Park. It does nothing for the downtown! Invest those dollars in our downtown park and connect with our lovely waterway and Huckleberry Harbor so people can boat and shop, stroll, relax and enjoy, and maximize our assets.

However, we need full-time leadership on the BID board to coordinate with the mayor, city council, chamber, economic development department, downtown businesses and volunteers. There are great opportunities for Boy Scouts needing an Eagle Scout project, Rotary Club, Optimists and other local volunteers and organizations.

Start with the vision, develop the four-part plan, and begin to define the needs and timeline, and recruit all the stakeholders.

Together we can do it, but it takes a village and all its stakeholders.

Karen F. Palmer,