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Willow Creek trail

The trail which begins at Mason City Public Library and follows Willow Creek along the south side of downtown Mason City is among the areas planned for revitalization if the city's Iowa Great Places designation is renewed.

Mason City has new confirmation from the Iowa state officials: It's a "Great Place."

Friday, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs re-designated Mason City as an Iowa Great Place for the Mason City Willow Creek Downtown Corridor Development. And with that comes money to re-invigorate the city's plan to clean up Willow Creek. 

As a part of that plan, project development is going to focus on creating a space that is inviting and makes use of the natural environment while complimenting the city's downtown assets and economic development. 

Showcasing the corridor and integrating it into the trail system will bring more attention to the amenities that Mason City has to offer, according to a release from City Administrator Aaron Burnett. 

He said that a likely part of the reason the city received the re-designation is because it offers such amenities while being the health, business and retail center for the region.

The re-designation makes the city eligible – with a 1-to-1 match – for an average of $204,000 in grants.

Along with that decision, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs named Mason City one of three newly designated Cultural and Entertainment Districts.

The boundaries for that include the Main Street Mason City program area as well as the Downtown Mason City Historic District.

With that news, the state recognizes 40 Iowa Great Places communities and eight Cultural and Entertainment Districts.

Mason City first applied for the designation in 2007.

In that year, Mason City’s application focused on the components of its Vision Iowa – rehabilitating the Historic Park Inn, renovating the Mason City Public Library, building the Architectural Interpretive Center and improvements to the city's downtown streetscape.

The Great Places program provided $500,000 to Wright on the Park Inc., for the purchase of the City National Bank building; $15,000 to Main Street Mason City for wayfinding signs; and more than $86,000 to the River City Society for Historic Preservation toward the construction of the interpretive center next to the Stockman House Museum.

Part of the reason officials decided to focus on Willow Creek for this submission was because they found the development plan to fit well with the ongoing River City Renaissance project. 

"If you look at the Willow Creek plan, they alluded to lots of the pieces of River City Renaissance," Burnett said, referring to parts of the master plan that called for more entertainment options, a hotel and residential development. "It's been sitting dormant while they figured out its implementation."

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