OTTUMWA — It was serious work to play with stickers and maps Tuesday evening. Concentration was on more than 70 faces as colored dots found their way up and down several maps of the river flowing through downtown Ottumwa.
The Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation hosted a Riverfront Renaissance public input meeting to specifically create ways that the community can engage with the Des Moines River to improve the quality of life for those around it. And the colored dots are a powerful tool for making that vision a reality.
"I think we have a really unique opportunity to give some input tonight, and also in July, about the Riverfront Renaissance," said Mayor Tom Lazio. "So I want to encourage you as we go through the evening to be expressive, be honest, be open and realize that you're contributing ideas to the betterment of the community as a whole."
The input meeting began the public process in discovering what the community's favorite places along the river are, what their least favorite are and where they could see areas of great potential. Each person in attendance was asked to put their dots on the map, making a colorful creation together with those at their table. The colored stickers each represented one of those locations, positive or negative, and it became clear which areas of the riverfront are a concern and which have already made progress.
Christian Rushing, an urban design consultant from Chattanooga, Tennessee, led the input session, beginning with a pictorial history of the Des Moines River and its impact on Ottumwa.
"In a very short time, (Ottumwa) went from an unsettled place to a place that is booming and very much depends on the river for transportation, for commerce. The river is the heart of the community," Rushing said as he showed pictures of the downtown river area in its early days.