Well, here we are again. It’s that time of the year when we like to put together a “wish list” for the community – the entire West Liberty Community School District area.
Looking over last year’s list, there wasn’t much accomplished, so either nobody cares about my opinion or they don’t care much about their community, but it’s likely there was this COVID-19 pandemic that might have slowed things down a bit. We’ve all found out it’s difficult to accomplish new things during a pandemic, so I’m going with that last excuse because I know our readers care about their community or they wouldn’t be getting the Index every week. Whether they value my opinion is always questionable!
Anyway, as a “newcomer” into the area, it’s sometimes a little easier to see needs and if you really want to dream, there are lots of things we could lmagine, but many of them may not be realistic unless we had a pool of endless money the school district or community leaders could spend to make this the best place to live in the state.
West Liberty already has a lot to offer – from an outstanding school district that has a strong extra-curricular base while the business community offers some unique offerings you don’t find everywhere.
Regardless, we’ve put together our wish list for the community. I simply ask you think about how you could contribute to these ideas – through organizations, financial contributions or simply to volunteer. Take it or leave it. Some of these may sound familiar from last year, but we’re going to hope these lead to something wonderful.
More bike/walking paths.
There was a movement early in the year by the Rotary Club of West Liberty to expand the 3/4 mile Hoover trail on the west side of town to include a loop through unused low-lying wild prairie grounds owned by the school district south of West Liberty High School. It’s a great idea and is another step toward adding another half mile or so to the trail that starts at the Depot Museum and park. The trail ends on the north side at Route 6 and it’s going to take some imagination, but is there a way to eventually extend the trail to the Dutton Sports Complex on the northwest part of town or even south to the West Liberty Golf & Country Club? There was also talk this year or creating a “turn-around” before Route 6. There was also talk in 2019 about hooking up with trails to Iowa City and even Muscatine. Obviously, it would mean a lot of recreation potential for families.
More wall murals.
Heck, West Liberty doesn’t need the Wall Dogs – we have our own volunteers that have done incredible work. A pair of art teachers, Shawna McLeod and Steph Paulsen along with a few friends, painted the entire two-story side of a building in downtown West Liberty starting in early May – looking for something to do during the pandemic while classes were completely virtual – and created a landmark painting that is quite representative of the community. This is a great attraction for the community. The Historic Preservation Society organization’s work at painting murals on buildings along the Hoover trail also continues to attract attention. Just think – if one or two are done every year, we’d have over a dozen in less than a decade.
Snow sledding hill.
Let’s face it, winter is going to come every year and with it, snow. Setting up a sledding hill in a community can be an attraction that will bring families to town. I really think the West Liberty Golf & Country Club has the best opportunity to utilize some of their land – not the golf course itself – to bring this recreational opportunity to the area. If not there, maybe a hill could be built somewhere in the community – maybe one of the parks.
I think every community needs one of these groups of volunteers who take the lead role in looking at areas in the community that can be cleaned up, where flowers, perennials or greenery could be planted and cared for. Yes, West Liberty does some great things already and it seems the WLHS FFA Chapter and Rotary Club of West Liberty has done some great things, but there’s always more that can be done with more volunteers, financial help and someone’s imagination.
Volunteer appreciation party.
I’ve seen this in other communities and it was put together by the city. They asked everyone who volunteered to come to an annual thank you dinner where they recognized some of the outstanding above-and-beyond efforts that were made over the year. There is a great book called “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” that was published several years ago that I think should be in front of every community leader. It has some valuable lessons.
Ice cream shop.
I really find it hard to believe West Liberty doesn’t have an exclusive ice cream shop – maybe a Tastee Freeze or Dairy Queen. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be a national name, and I know there are a lot of places you can still get an ice cream treat here in town, but we lost a downtown restaurant that used to sell a lot of these kind of treats as well this past year and someone needs to take advantage of bringing this kind of business to the community.
Wow is there a need for housing in West Liberty – whether it’s single family, condos or rental units - it’s all needed. The city is working hard at getting things lined up for 2021 construction of a lot of these developments and we really can’t wait after the pandemic held things up in 2020. Adding places to live makes it easier to draw people to the community to work and raise their families. Let’s grow this community!
I understand there was a time West Liberty used to be part of a “Steam Engine Train Ride” experience that ran between Iowa City and maybe the Quad-Cities? I guess this was at least 10 years ago and the experience was so great tickets were hard to come by. How could we bring that back to this historic train town or maybe even the Polar Express train experience during the holidays?
More adult education.
I know we can do this through our local community colleges, but there are a lot of seniors who don’t like to drive at night and desire courses right here in town – where we already have a downtown facility capable of hosting these things. I’ve never seen a survey for adults asking what would they be interested in learning more about – maybe it’s simply a class on using that smart phone that outsmarts you, social media, gardening or even exercise and health.
West Liberty High School Sports, Fine Arts and Academic Hall of Fame.
I know there have been Comet teams honored over the years and there are Hall of Fame walls for certain sports in the community, like wrestling, but there are a lot of other sports that have never honored hall of fame teams or individuals who did outstanding things in sports, fine arts and academics while at WLHS or after graduating, going on to achieve great things. These people should be recognized.
More extra curricular activities.
Well, a new city pool would be nice to replace our century-old facility, but that’s going to take someone leaving the city a lot of money, the city saving for a long time or borrowing the money, or the park department hosting countless fundraisers and donations, but there are a lot of little things that could be done as well – especially through the schools and once this darn pandemic is whipped. How about a chess team or an e-sports team?
Get back to normal.
First, that’s going to take everyone in the community getting the COVID-19 vaccine. After that, getting back to normal is on a ramp to endless bounds! Let’s have a Muscatine County Fair this year, a fair parade and all that goes with it, a regular high school graduation (although I think we should keep the graduation parade as well – a really great idea), get all our sports back and kids active again, swimming, playing, participating in things like fine arts and having a normal school year in a classroom with teachers. Let’s have regular holiday events like Easter egg hunts, Veteran’s Day salutes, holiday open house events and more. Let’s get our movie theatre showing films again and our puppet theatre back on track. It just seems like we all fell behind and missed a year of our life because of this pandemic and we need to get busy to get things back on track again.
So there you have it. Our wish is that you think about what we listed here. Maybe there’s one or two of those things you’d like to tackle. Then again, maybe there’s more ideas you have and, if so, please drop me a line and I’ll let everyone know. Let’s make West Liberty an even better community.