‘Visions’ efforts still strong

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The world does not end at the east Austin city limits.

That was proven again Monday night at the annual Prairie Visions banquet at Rose Creek.

Prairie Visions is the joint-venture organization of Rose Creek, Adams, Taopi and LeRoy. It was created 19 years ago to promote the rural communities and countryside in greater Mower County and to enhance the quality of life for all.

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The all-volunteer organization developed the Scenic Byways Wildflower Route along Minnesota Highway 56, pushed for the creation of a biking and hiking trail across Mower County, promoted economic development in the member communities and embraced community organization everywhere.

For doing all that, its members deserve a pat on the back, which is the name given to the annual recognition dinner each November.

Eileen Hutchins, president of Prairie Visions, welcomed guests to the Rose Creek — Windom Township Hall Monday evening.

She noted the organization will observe its 20th anniversary in 2009 and asked supporters for their input on what the organization should pursue in its future.

“We don’t want to rest on our laurels,” Hutchins said. “We’ve accomplished a lot, but we have lots of work ahead of us in 2009.”

Hutchins challenged the Prairie Visions faithful to recruit more volunteers to its ranks.

Mayors Ed Koppen, LeRoy Swanson and James Kiefer, LeRoy, Adams and Taopi, respectively, were special guests with Wendell Sprung, Rose Creek City council member.

Chris Mautes, regional planning director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, was another special guest.

“It’s great to see such a dedicated group of volunteers,” Mautes said.

The Mn/DOT regional planning director recalled how the Southeast Minnesota Area Transportation Partnership will share $800,000 in trail funding in 2012 and 2013.

One of the trail projects, is the link from the J.C. Hormel Nature Center to the city of Austin’s linear trail system. The project is slated to receive $216,392 in 2013 for the enhancements, according to Mautes.

Another special guest was Linden Anderson, park ranger at Lake Louise State Park, LeRoy. Anderson reported LLSP was the only park in the state system to enjoy an attendance increase: 30 percent over 2007 figures.

Peg Sprau of the Regional Trails Group, Northfield, praised the organization for hosting a Labor Day weekend bike excursion across Mower County that attracted 50 rides from across Minnesota.

A Prairie Visions Pat on the Back event would not be complete without awards: Both serious and less than serious.

Hutchins presented awards to the LeRoy Independent and Austin Daily Herald newspapers for their coverage of Prairie Visions’ growth through nearly two decades.

Gerald Meier, Adams, chairman of the organization’s Shooting Star trail committee, was honored for his work on the trail project.

Meier said seeing the Taopi to Adams trail extension completed this year made 2008 a “year to remember.”

“We waited a long time for this to happen,” Meier said.

The trail, which originated In LeRoy, now extends 14.7 miles to the west edge of Adams, following abandoned railroad right-of-way property.

Meier predicted the trail could be extended from Adams to Rose Creek in 2009 and urged members support.

Meier was honored for his work on the trail project. Fittingly enough, he received a plaque reading “Dreams do come true.”

Meier also expressed the organization’s appreciation to Mower County for its involvement in the trail’s development.

Also honored Monday night was Daryl W. Franklin, the retired long-time Mower County environmental services director, who served as project administrator for the trail’s development.

Franklin expressed his appreciation to the organization and praised the cooperative effort shown by volunteers and the participating communities.

Organizers called the banquet the largest in the organization’s history. More guests from Austin attended than ever before, including Jim and Merlene Stiles, co-representatives of the Minnesota Environmental Partner-ship, and author and bicycling enthusiast, Dan Urlick.

Prairie Visions president Hutchins surveyed the banquet audience and said to all, “I could go around this room and thank everyone for helping Prairie Visions. You all mean a lot to us.”

Joyce Halver, Adams, decorated the room in a Thanksgiving holiday theme for the banquet.

The grilled Windsor pork chop meal was catered by Ken and Becky Hartwig, owners of the Rose Pedaler at Rose Creek. Not to be outdone by Prairie Visions’ showing of appreciation, the Hartwigs presented a large group of bicyclists who frequent the Rose Pedaler each Tuesday with gifts. Anyone interested in assisting the Prairie Visions organization’s mission to enhance the quality of life in greater Mower County may inquire at the Rose Pedaler for more information.