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La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Samantha Marcus Column

July 15, 2008

By Samantha Marcus, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 15–Three big-ticket items drew crowds to La Crosse’s Common Council meeting Thursday as 16 aldermen ruled on a condemnation, Bliss Road repair and rental registration policy.

But the show opener, in contrast, drew little fanfare. Nine council members — George Italiano, Jai Johnson, Jacie Gamroth, Bill Harnden, Dorothy Lenard, Doug Farmer, Richard Becker, Tom Sweeney and Marilyn Wigdahl — and a few audience members graced chambers for an update on the city’s sustainability efforts. It’s been slightly more than a year since La Crosse’s city and county governments adopted the Natural Step framework, so assistant planner Tim Kabat hosted this update session at Johnson’s behest.

And for all of you who missed it, consider me a proxy.

n The Crowley Park playground will be one of the most sustainable in the state, officials said.

“I think it’s a statement about how this city relates to the environment,” said Parks and Recreation Director Steve Carlyon.

Carlyon said the park infuses green thinking into both the product and process.

“A lot of playground equipment talks about the end products as sustainable,” Carlyon said. “We built sustainability into the bid specifications and manufacturing standards.”

In bidding out the project, the department considered companies’ carbon footprinting and emissions controls, he said.

– In the past several months, the city council adopted an ordinance for small wind energy systems and a resolution endorsing the state’s goal of generating 25 percent of La Crosse’s electricity and transportation fuels from renewable resources by the year 2025.

– Kabat also said La Crosse officials have started preliminary talks with their counterparts in Madison to learn about the community car sharing program. About 1,000 people are enrolled in the Madison Community Car cooperative, a representative said.

– The Gathering Waters Conservancy in 2006 named La Crosse the “Policy Maker of the Year” for its bluffland protection program, which with the Mississippi Valley Conservancy has preserved more than 800 acres.

– A year later, the League of American Bicyclists rated the city a bronze level “Bicycle Friendly Community.”

– And “Country Home” magazine in 2008 named our fair city the second-best green small city in the United States. Kabat said the ranking recognizes air and water quality, mass transit use, farmers markets and organic groceries.

Samantha Marcus can be reached at (608) 791-8220. or smarcus@lacrossetribune.com.

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