EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of columns written by members of Vision 2020, a group that was created in 1995 to draft vision statements for Yankton and the surrounding area for 2020.
In the 1995 Document, Vision 2020, the Lake and River Committee states that the Missouri River will always be significant to Yankton for tourism and recreation and that orderly, creative and thoughtful planning for the merger of the Lewis and Clark Lake area and City of Yankton should always be in the minds of the city and county officials; this is more true for Vision 2030.
This committee’s No. 1 project was Highway 52.
In 1995, Highway 52 was a narrow two-lane crowded with large RVs, speeding commuters, gawking tourists and retail businesses crowding the road. They recommended a five-lane highway from Yankton to the Lewis and Clark Park entrance and a bike path to the dam from the Riverside Park. We have that five-lane highway now and many miles of bike paths in the state and federal parks and the city.
Vision 2030 should work with Nebraska to complete the bike path on the Nebraska side of the river. Another goal would be to make our recreation accessible to people that don’t have bikes and kayaks. We could put together a bike/kayak share with docking stations at “the bubble” and Riverside Park. A person could then kayak down to Riverside Park and bike back through downtown Yankton to pick up their car at “the bubble.” This plan would also put kayak docking close to Lake Yankton and bikes close to downtown for day use. A double win!
The Highway 52 success leads into the committees second Lake Project: implementing an orderly, creative and thoughtful set of rules for the growth of the Highway 52 corridor. The idea of a comprehensive zoning code for the Highway 52 corridor has been slowly developing and it is always improving. Vision 2030 needs to continue helping with zoning concerns.
Another issue to be addressed sooner rather than later is the population boom and commercial water use at the lake. We need to keep sewage from septic systems out of the river drainage and get it into the water treatment plant to keep our environment clean and healthy.
Vision 2020 wanted the lake promoted to bring tourists into the city. Over the last 25 years, we have done a good job, but this is a never-ending chore.
Vision 2030 needs to continue this promotion of our River Recreation in all media possible, bringing all the assets of the national park, state park and state tourism and the city together to create a united appeal to our neighbors. We should also work with private business to expand our message.
In Vision 2020, more ideas and projects were presented for the Missouri River than the lake; this made sense as we have more control over our city than over the lake. In “1995 Vision 2020,” we saw a “Gateway to the River” being created in downtown Yankton. This is coming true: the revival of the waterfront downtown is happening. Three streets — Capital, Douglas and Walnut — from Levee Street to Fourth Street, are noticeably improving. The recent Walnut Street and Second Street project ties the downtown into the Meridian Bridge Plaza and has become the keystone of our downtown revival.
Vision 2020 had desired to develop a convention and entertainment complex by the river; it has not occurred yet. Vision 2030 should make a major downtown complex of some form a priority in their planning. The riverfront and the downtown gateway area should be used for as many events as we can think of; we should never discourage any “out of the box” thinking on this area and future development should be encouraged.
What Vision 2020 didn’t see is the Missouri National Recreation River. We now have a national park office and a team of hard-working rangers promoting it. More people are traveling “out west” and where they are heading is to the western parks. Let our parks become the first parks they visit! We are the gem of the river, we have unparalleled outdoor recreation facilities on both sides of the river and a beautiful state and national park to offer tourist. On any given summer weekend, Yankton can double its population. Vision 2030 should work to leverage these state and national assets to our maximum benefit.
Vision 2020 had great projects for the future; we have gotten most of them done on a grander scale than they envisioned. We as a community have been blessed to be on the banks of the Missouri River. We are the closest large-scale outdoor recreation area to Sioux City, Sioux Falls and Omaha, and Vision 2030 needs to make Yankton and our parks the first choice of those cities for recreation.
The vision of all community members to make us a recreation destination is imperative. To that end, we must be proactive in protecting our future from pollution. The air, the water, the land and sky must be thought of as assets to be preserved now and into the future!