Community members can visit to take the survey, post on a digital map, share priorities via the “voting game” and identify which principles should be prioritized to guide La Crosse’s future…

Tim Acklin

Planning and Development, City of La Crosse

Today we talked with Tim Acklin of the City of La Crosse’s Planning and Development Department on the new campaign “Forward La Crosse”. This campaign, with the help of the citizens of La Crosse will create an action plan guiding decision making and investment.

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Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information, visit them online at This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. Artspire is back with a full weekend of art at the Pump House Regional Arts Center. Enjoy live music from Cloud Cult, Bill Miller and B2wins, plus a fine art fair, interactive art projects, and visual and performing arts June 10th through 11th. Learn more at Today we talked with Tim Acklin of the City of La Crosse’s Planning and Development Department on the new campaign Forward La Crosse. The Forward La Crosse campaign will serve to update the confluence comprehensive plan adopted in 2002. This plan, with the help of the citizens of La Crosse, will create an action plan guiding decision making and investment. Visit to take the survey, post on a digital map, share your priorities via the voting game, and identify which principles should be prioritized to guide La Crosse’s future. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:39
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:40
And this is La Crosse Local.

Tim Acklin 01:43
My name is Tim Aklan. I was born in England. And what led me here was this was my first job graduating from college, from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Go Big Red. Yeah, this was the first job I applied for. I just had a lot of family out this way. I liked the climates. And I liked the environment, the bluffs and the green and those different natural features. And it just kind of led me out this way. And I was fortunate enough to apply for and get accepted for the first real job I had out of college. I think they had a lot to do with just my interest in historic preservation, my knowledge of GIS and some experience I had in grad school, and then sort of what my degree was and things like that.

Brent Hanifl 02:29
So we’re here to chat about the City of La Crosse’s comprehensive plan, kind of an update. It’s called Forward La Crosse, what is this plan all about?

Tim Acklin 02:38
Yeah, this plan is intended to be the guiding document our city should use when our elected officials make decisions for land use policy, and really capital budget expenditures over the next 10, 15, 20 years. Our last plan was adopted in 2002. Before that one hadn’t been completed since the 60s. This plan is 20 years old now. And I feel like there were a lot of good efforts that came out of it, it was very successful, we implemented a lot of portions of it, but it is outdated. There’s a lot of newer issues that have emerged over the last 20 years that we need to address as a city, either they weren’t issues at the time, or there weren’t large enough issues, you know, to be considered in the plan. And there’s just new ways of thinking, new issues emerging things that we need to address as a city moving forward. And so this plan is important because it is supposed to be the voice of the city citizens and its people. And so it’s our job to make sure that we go to the community and hear from everybody what they want their community to be over the next 10, 15, 20 years, how they want it to grow. And this includes a variety of different areas. This includes how we want to grow from an economic development point of view. What do we want to do about our natural features? What’s in our environment? What do we want to do with our recreational opportunities? What do we want to do about historic preservation? What do we want to do about land use and neighborhoods and housing opportunities, and our intergovernmental relationships with our surrounding municipalities? It’s really a variety of different topics that are included in this plan of how we want to grow and the direction we want to take as a community. And we want it to be your plan, essentially, the citizens’ plan. So it’s our job to go out and make sure we hear from everybody the best way that we can.

Brent Hanifl 04:32
How’s the plan, you know Forward La Crosse and yourself, kind of actively going after community members? And also, you know, why should they participate in the planning process?

Tim Acklin 04:41
Good question. I think it’s important that they participate. If they want to try to help to ensure how they want their community to grow happens. It’s important to make your voice heard. You know, much of the way we always say you know, you must vote to make your vote count, to make your voice heard. I really feel that’s the same premise for a comprehensive plan. We want to hear from you. We want to hear what you have to say. And for all, you know, your opinions and your ideas are shared by others, and those ideas can get put into this plan and potentially be implemented.

Brent Hanifl 05:13
What sort of groups are you kind of pulling together to kind of get that community involvement?

Tim Acklin 05:18
In terms of what we’ve been doing to try to make sure we reach out to everybody? That’s a great question as well, because we have come to understand with a lot of the other planning efforts that we’ve done in the past that sort of the traditional townhall models aren’t as effective to getting word and feedback from everybody. So we wanted to make sure with this process that we have provided every opportunity for everybody in the city to participate. So we have worked with a local media company, to help us have a larger presence across social media, and the internet for those, too, and websites and things like that, to help us capture those. That’s, you know, that’s how they traditionally respond to things, and surveys and questions and feedback and stuff like that. We will still have in person traditional town hall meetings, there are those that still like that form of public engagement. We will still be holding those around the city, and we then also are looking to go to a lot of committees on their own terms, and communities. And one thing we knew we were always lacking in our planning efforts was having feedback from historically underrepresented populations, like our Hispanic and our Black community, our Hmong community, our Ho Chunk community, our LGBTQ communities, and trying to make sure they have the opportunity to provide feedback to us as well. So we’ve been trying to work with those community leaders and those communities to engage with them and get feedback and responses. So we can make sure we hear from everybody. This process is a year and a half and hopefully over that time period we’ll be engaging with them, as well.

Brent Hanifl 06:56
Just headed to, its where people can find out information. It looks like there’s four ways to participate. You can take a survey about you know, what you anticipate or what you’d like to share about life in La Crosse in the future. It looks like you also have a digital map, which is kind of cool, where you basically leave comments and photos highlighting different areas where your interests kind of lie in. You also have like a voting game. And also looks like you have a you know, a shorter survey, which is basically where people kind of like, set their priorities for the future La Crosse.

Tim Acklin 07:27
Yes, we have some great things going on on our website, a lot of great activities and ways for people to leave feedback and their opinions and concerns. It won’t be, this won’t be the only opportunity to participate. Or the only surveys, the only mapping options, the only maps to look at at some point in the process, all that’ll change and get updated to be geared more towards the types of information we’re looking to gather. This is just the beginning stages, there’s a lot of ways to provide inputs, the interactive mapping option is really interesting. The voting game also is pretty great. We’re coming up soon with a visual preference survey. And then there’ll just be a variety of different questions based on the different elements and categories that we were talking about earlier, like economic development, neighborhoods, housing. There’ll be a variety of different pieces of information and categories and questions and surveys and opportunities that leave feedback in all those different areas. And particularly land use, I’m looking forward to an interactive mapping option that will allow for discussion and comments on land use. Like what’s the preferred land use of some portions of the city going forward. We want to keep it a certain residential district, doesn’t need to be commercial, it doesn’t need to be higher density. Let’s have that discussion. And so those options will be coming at a later point as well.

Brent Hanifl 08:44
So you kind of touched on the land use one, you know, in terms of planning, what’s next? Or what are you excited for to come out of this?

Tim Acklin 08:51
This whole process? Personally, I’m just excited to talk with people and hear from them how they want their community to grow. And hopefully we can put together a document that will help that happen. That’s really what I’m excited about. I really like having conversations with our community, on the different levels, about what hasn’t been working with the city, what doesn’t work, what would work, what you liked about your community? What can we do better? How do you want your neighborhood to grow your area to grow your city to grow? I’m just excited about having those conversations.

Brent Hanifl 09:24
So if people want to find out more, take the survey, maybe leave a comment on the map or participate in the other ways, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?

Tim Acklin 09:32
The best thing for them to do is go to engage in all the activities that are available there and the opportunity to provide feedback. And then keep participating throughout the entire process. As I said, don’t just participate and then be done. Please engage throughout the whole process throughout the year. There’ll be more opportunities to leave feedback on a variety of different topics, different questions that we’ll be asking you. And like I said, we really want to hear from you on everything we do anticipate and having a presence in our libraries. We do anticipate being involved or having a presence that a lot of the events that will go on through the year, just piggybacking off them, whether it’s any of our fests, whether it’s any of our music events, anything that we can potentially be involved in. We will just be looking out for those.

Amy Gabay 10:24
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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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