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Visioning session looks at ways to improve Dassel
JULY 19, 2010

Participants gave suggestions from beautification of city to added attractions

By Kristen Miller
Editor

DASSEL, MN – In an effort to “lift the community” and make Dassel an even better place to live and work, city leaders, business owners, and community members participated in a visioning session Tuesday evening.

“We wanted to get a grip on what we have in Dassel and how to communicate and work together on projects to better [our city,]” said Carolyn Holje on behalf of the Dassel Area Historical Society.

To guide the process was David Floren, who serves on the historical society’s board of directors and has 40 years of experience in the advertising business.

Holje highlighted three main objectives to the visioning process:

• To promote Dassel and help it become a destination.

• To keep it a wonderful place to live and work.

• To generate volunteers for future improvement projects.

A small-group meeting first took place in June for the purpose of identifying four main areas including Dassel’s assets, assets admired in other small towns, a wish list for Dassel in five years, and what needs changing.

Dassel’s assets

Some of the assets identified were:

• location – Highway 12 corridor, proximity to the Twin Cities metro area, and its lakes, parks, and recreational areas;

• strong school system,

• interesting history/Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum;

• the ball park and other parks;

• events such as Red Rooster Days, Dairy Berry Day, Brat Feed, and the Firemen’s Dance;

• business attraction and destination shops; and

• strong art community.

Assets admired in other small towns

Some of the assets that were admired in other small communities were:

• sponsored flower posts or flags;

• Litchfield’s central park and bandstand;

• fishing dock; and

• public art.

Areas needing change

Examples of areas that were addressed as needing change were:

• more active chamber with more new members;

• niche business development/attraction;

• more support/cooperation among various civic/business groups;

• street lighting; and

• deal with empty buildings/improve appearance.

A wish list for Dassel

Some items discussed that people would like to see for Dassel in the next five years included:

• a main street redevelopment plan with general clean-up and visual improvement of downtown and residential areas;

• more senior housing;

• arts and crafts festival;

• 18-hole putting course;

• Farmers market (in the works); and

• a blue grass festival.

A larger group of about 30 participated in Tuesday’s brainstorming session at the Dassel History Center.

In small groups, there were four areas to think about – beautification, main street development, events and attraction, and community brand/image/pride.

Each table of participants had the opportunity to share their ideas in each category.

Beautification

A few of the main ideas generated in the area of beautification were:

• new street light banners;

• decorative garbage cans;

• trees along the boulevard in downtown or flower pots, as well as care of trees along Highway 12;

• new signage for the city of Dassel; and

• roosters, similar to how Buffalo has buffalo around town.

Main street development

Main street development ideas included:

• improvements to Bandstand Park by the railroad tracks including more benches and new playground equipment;

• attracting industry to the area; and

• a community youth center.

Events and attractions

Ideas to expand the events and attractions in Dassel included:

• music festivals/concerts in a variety of genres;

• year-round community events, perhaps adding an ice fishing contest;

• fishing pier;

• music in the park;

• a senior’s prom night;

• more trails;

• attract more baseball tournaments; and

• have outdoor art fairs.

Community brand/image/pride

It was pointed out that the red rooster is already the image of Dassel, but other ideas were generated to improve Dassel’s image such as a professionally updated and newly designed city website.

Other ideas under this category included:

• a focus on the area lakes and town baseball;

• “Welcome to Dassel” signs;

• promotion of the school district; and

• an informational kiosk at the mushroom building.

Going forth

Some possible funding opportunities were discussed including seeking a main street redevelopment grant through the Minnesota Preservation Alliance and the state’s Legacy funds.

“It’s a ways off,” said Bob Wilde, owner of Wilde Studios. “We will have to do a lot more organizing.”

The city must also determine what it can do financially. Council Member Jason Benzing was present at the meeting and stressed the importance of a professionally built website, stating that it would be something the council would look into, along with weed control.

Visioning participants were asked to write down their contact information and choose one of the four areas of focus that they would be interested in serving on a committee.

If anyone is interested in volunteering to serve on one or more committees – beautification, main street development, events and attractions, or community brand/image, contact Holje at the Dassel History Center at (320) 275-3077.

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