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Preston's ambitious dream for the future

Fri, Jan 22nd, 2010
Posted in Progress Edition

Prestons welcome sign located on Highway 52.

National Trout Learning


Preston has been building on some new ideas in 2009 which will extend into the coming year or years. City Administrator Joe Hoffman said he was very excited about the efforts to establish a National Trout Learning Center (NTLC) in Preston. He maintained the city is capitalizing on what it has as America's Trout Capital. Hoffman suggested a center would attract people from outside the county as well as locally, a source of potential growth for the community.

A committee put together to make the NTLC a reality is composed of a diverse group of community people including, but not limited to, EDA city and county, tourism, the arts, trout enthusiast groups, the Community Foundation, soil and water, city staff and council, and the chamber of commerce. The committee for the NTLC has met three times and is working on budgets, a mission and goals. They are looking at creating a temporary center which would be staffed by volunteers. It would be an interpretive center with an emphasis on education about trout and their habitat. The committee thinks the temporary center would be located downtown and would have some tanks with live trout. Eventually, the objective is to build a permanent center near the Root River which would be staffed by professionals.

Trout Sculpture

This has been a dream for some residents that has been pursued since 2006. The proposal to create a thirty-foot metal trout structure to be located in one of the ponds built for the highway 52 renovation was awarded a $5,000 grant in 2006 by the Southeast Minnesota Initiative Foundation. The long term goal of the project is to strengthen the cultural and economic vitality of Preston. The "Fintastical" Trout Sculpture Project was awarded an additional $5,000 from the Preston Area Community Foundation.

Over the years the committee has had to make some changes and modifications to its proposals due to cost restraints and has had to scrap some ideas. Kay Spangler, co-chair of the trout sculpture committee and president of the Preston Area Arts Council, admits the development of the dream of a metal trout sculpture has been a slow process.

In 2009 the arts council refocused on a three dimensional two foot model to make a construction plan and to get a cost estimate. Also, partly due to safety factors, other sites besides the highway 52 pond are being considered, including the trail head area, near the downtown area, or near the proposed NTLC building location.

Gary Greff, who created the "Enchanted Highway" in North Dakota, is to be in Preston on January 25 to meet with the Arts Council and to talk with the public about the possible affect on tourism and economic development a giant trout sculpture could have.

Reflecting Back on 2009

Hoffman admitted 2009 has been a tough year for new business. He felt it was fortunate businesses already in the city were able to survive. Some have been able to make significant improvements to an existing business like the Preston Food Mart and the B & B Bowl.

This past year saw Catch Savings in Preston, an effort Hoffman termed a good fit for the city. Twelve thousand compact fluorescent bulbs were distributed to the community. Hoffman says Preston is a green community and has lead the state in green energy sales for years. The change to the cfl light bulbs is estimated to save 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions which would provide the same benefit as planting 1,200 acres of trees.

The city of Preston acted as an applicant on behalf of itself, along with Chatfield and Ostrander, for a Small Cities Grant. The total grant awarded for the three cities was $474,200. Preston's portion was about $175,000.

The completion of the city's new tennis courts was a community project which included funding from the city, Fillmore Central School District, the Preston Area Community Foundation, and private donations. Nearly $100,000 was raised. Individuals donated a range of $5 to $5,000.

The Historic Elevator added the boxcar this past year and is working on getting a caboose renovated. Hoffman says the project reminds us of our roots, where we came from and highlights agriculture, which is important to the community. The elevator project is applying for funds from the new three-eights sales tax from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment passed in November 2008, which is to be used in part for historical and cultural projects.

The loss of Preston's nursing home hit the community hard. However, Hoffman was pleased that an organization like Traditions came in and opened a fantastic assisted living facility, Traditions of Preston. He said they took an absolute negative and turned it into a positive.

Looking Forward to 2010

Hoffman and Dr. Robert Sauer are working together to review the city's ordinances and meet a couple hours each week. They are trying to identify needed additions or removals and suggesting appropriate penalties for infractions. These recommendations will be taken to the city council for review and the council will make the final decision whether to adopt the changes.

The city will also be working to update their land use plan. Planning and Zoning will be working on this most of the year. They intend to involve citizens and hold public hearings. The plan will impact land use for the next decade.

The potential for a Veterans Cemetery just south of Preston in a very picturesque area would be an asset for southeast Minnesota. Hoffman says he appreciates the support of the Fillmore County Board.

It is hoped that a resolution to the bicycle trail controversy between Preston and Forestville State Park can be attained in 2010. Hoffman adds the trail extension would be beneficial to the community and its citizens.

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