NICER: Northern Iron County Engaged Residents – A New Face in Placemaking

Placemaking is defined as planned efforts that focus on the development and reinvention of public places.  When designed and utilized well, a place becomes a community asset because of the positive  meanings, sentiments, and stories it holds for people who visit.  Such places support the everyday wellbeing of residents and the local tourism economy.

The concepts and implementation of placemaking have been a long-term focus for the Educators in the Iron County UW-Madison Extension office.  Neil Klemme, 4-H Youth Development Educator, works with youth in Iron County and around the state on community development initiatives like placemaking.  “I’ve been impressed with what I have seen in other communities and really want to bring some of that back to where I live and work,” Klemme shared.  Placemaking initiatives to date in northern Iron County have focused on expanding recreational trails, including a community design charrette workshop co-hosted by local youth in 2016 that harnessed resident input to draft plans for a multi-use trailhead near downtown Hurley as well as trail extension routes into the communities of Gile and Montreal.

In late 2018 a new grassroots collaboration backed by the Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce called NICER, Northern Iron County Engaged Residents, approached the Iron County UW-Extension Madison office with interest in creating more collaborative placemaking projects.  Community Development Educator, Amy Nosal, saw the genesis of NICER as an indicator that positive change is growing significantly in northern Iron County.  “It’s not easy to imagine ‘what else?’ when something doesn’t yet exist or you’re looking at a neglected public space.  So, to hear this question come from the residents of northern Iron County means they are ready to write a new chapter of their history.”  To start, in the winter of 2019 NICER and Iron County UW-Madison Extension hosted a community snowshoe hike along the Montreal ski trails in order to bring awareness and support to the Penokee Rangers who maintain the trail system.

Most recently in May of 2019, NICER and Iron County UW-Madison Extension teamed up again to facilitate a community workshop on placemaking.  The workshop included an overview of placemaking principles as describe by Klemme, and then the thirty-six participating Iron County residents shared their hopes and dreams for the future of northern Iron County as facilitated by Nosal.  Ideas were organized within four key attributes of successful places, and the information will help NICER identify impactful projects to pursue in the future.  The event concluded with comments from the NICER founders, Ken Saari, Maleah Cummings and Rita Franzoi.  The next project will be a community scavenger hunt hosted as part of the Heritage Festival celebrations.

Those interested in following NICER’s conversations and events can visit their Facebook page (NICER – Northern Iron County Engaged Residents) and join the NICER email list: https://www.tinyurl.com/nicersignup.

Below are the materials shared in the May 2019 NICER Community Placemaking Workshop:

Participant Packet – Agenda, Placemaking 101, Great Place Diagram – pdf Table Conversation Results – pdf