In 2016, as the 2018 license expiration date drew nearer, City leaders and staff began reevaluating the costs and benefits of the dams. To determine a path forward, the City spent approximately two years carrying out a major planning effort that culminated in the creation of the Kinnickinnic River Corridor Plan.
“The river is central to the community – not just centrally located, but central to our being,” Community Development Director Amy Peterson said. “Ensuring that the development of this plan was collaborative and community-based was essential to ensuring that the recommendations would reflect the values and priorities of the community.”
The planning process involved extensive community engagement, including the creation of the Kinni Corridor Project Committee; public meetings and workshops; several community surveys; and “Tech Talks,” in which subject matter experts spoke with the community about topics including river ecology, hydro relicensing, dam removal alternatives, and more.
“Engagement was critical because, as a growing city, we had a lot of people that didn’t have all the history,” Simpson said. “It was important to get people up to speed so that they could have an equal stake in the decision-making. If you look at the way the engagement was set up, it wasn’t just a series of town halls… we were very deliberate in bringing in experts and ensuring the City was not the central voice in the process. We also made sure there was ample space in the process for residents to tell us what they thought.”
Community feedback during the planning process revealed several important insights. The top four most important activities on the Kinni for community members were, in order: hiking/walking, paddling, relaxing along the shoreline, fishing, and picnicking. Community members overwhelmingly expressed a desire to better connect the City's downtown to the riverfront, wanting enhanced access to the river from Main Street and better visibility of the river downtown. They also expressed a desire for more trails; enhanced fishing, paddling, birding, biking, and hiking opportunities; and improved conditions for wildlife.