La Salle residents list city’s positives during first Strategic Community Planning meeting

Next meeting to focus on future projects

La Salle Economic Development Director Curt Bedei speaks during Sept. 19, 2023 Strategic Community Planning meeting.

Community leaders and residents expressed the positive aspects La Salle has to offer, including proximity to Starved Rock State Park, education, arts and tourism during the Strategic Community Planning meeting Tuesday night.

La Salle Economic Development Director Curt Bedei said starting with the positive aspects of the community during what will be a three-part planning event helps people understand what La Salle has to offer the community.

“We may not think about these things from time to time,” he said.” Starved Rock, for instance, a lot of locals take that for granted because we’re here to see it everyday. It may not be at the top of our minds every day, but it’s a positive resource.”

Tuesday marked the first of the planning sessions. The city’s goal is to understand better the community and its residents’ needs and/or wants over the next 10 years in the areas of quality of life, tourism and economic development.

Eric Maze, a La Salle resident, speaks during Sept. 19, 2023 Strategic Community Planning meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting focused on residents’ quality of life.

“I think a lot of positive things are going on in the community,” said Luke Tomsha, Founder of The Perfectly Flawed Foundation. “La Salle has a great downtown that can really bring together those civic events.”

Community & Economic Development Specialist Pam Schallhorn split the about 20 attendees into groups and then worked together to “identify existing resources or assets that currently impact the quality of life in La Salle.”

Each group nominated a leader/co-leader to present the identified quality of life attributes to the room.

Dani Piland, a La Salle resident, who presented for her group, said they spoke specifically about the strength of La Salle’s resources when it came to addressing theoOpioid crisis and the robust resources offered for addressing mental health issues.

“I’ve been working in nonprofits for a long time,” she said. “And I think that despite our relatively small size, the strength of our nonprofit community is a really significant asset here.”

Piland also took the time to discuss La Salle’s increasing racial diversity and the representation of the Mexican community through the city’s culinary offerings.

“We did talk at out table about the fact that this appears to be a largely white group, although almost a quarter of our population is Hispanic or Latino ... we engaged in robust discussion about public safety about who feels safe and who feels less so.”

Community & Economic Development Specialist, Pam Schallhorn split the approximate 20 attendees into groups and then worked together to “identify existing resources or assets that currently impact the quality of life in La Salle.”

Eric Maze, a La Salle resident, who spoke for his group, said the community offered great civic organizations such as the food pantry and Illinois Valley Public Action to Deliver Shelter.

“It’s a very generous community that gives back to a lot of different causes,” he said

Maze’s group spoke about the topographic assets the city offered and the various activities residents had the opportunity to enjoy in the area.

“This is not a bad place to raise a family,” he said. “There’s a lot of activities around, we’ve got good schools. We’ve got great parades. The Festival of Lights is amazing and brings all kinds of people.”

Dawn Hicks, a La Salle resident, who spoke for her group, said her group talked about the different arts and music events.

“We would love to see Stage 212 expand,” she said. “Because they have been a huge blessing in this area to encourage kids to be more creative and get out of their shells. Along with Maestro and Mi.”

Hicks said her group spoke about the multiple parks in town and the various activities available for families to enjoy at those parks.

“The La Salle pool is in a great location,” she said. “It’s in the middle of town, it’s accessible for kids all over to walk to ... Hegeler Park I know we’ve had some events there like movies in the park.”

After the presentations, Schallhorn thanked everyone for their time and encouraged them to come to the next meeting with big ideas.

Bedei said he wants people to come to the next session with the most “outrageous, craziest thoughts,” and money is not an object.

“I want people to be loose about their thoughts and open-minded about the possibilities because you know anything can happen ... coming up with crazy ideas helps people get their minds going, gets people engaged and involved,” he said.

The next session will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the Knights of Columbus, (second floor), 209 Gooding St. La Salle residents will be asked to provide ideas they believe are important for future projects that could impact the city’s tourism, quality of life and economic development.

To register for the event visit . If you have questions about the planning process or if you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, contact Schallhorn at