Wells to boost sinkhole capital tourism

At the Aug. 3 meeting, the Fountain City Council received an update from Councilman Colleen Fohrenbacher regarding a plan to make the city’s claim to fame as the “Sinkhole Capital of the United States” a tangible tourism aspect.

The US Geological Survey has mapped approximately 60 percent of the sinkholes in Fillmore County, and it is estimated that there are more than 10,000 sinkholes according to the county’s geographic atlas. A large part of them is located in the fountain area due to the karst topography. Underground water erodes soluble bedrock, leaving cracks, holes, and even entire cave systems in its wake. Enough soil erosion and the soil above sinks.

Working with Sara Sturgis, executive director of the Fillmore County Historical Society, which operates the Fillmore County Museum, Fohrenbacher found that visitors to the center frequently ask about the sinkholes. While there is a Department of Natural Resources observation area in addition to a large sink hole along the Root River State Trail, there may be additional opportunities to enhance the unique landscape.

Expanding this “sinkhole tourism” would be eligible for various grants for things like signage, safety, and solving mobility issues. “It could be a really great area,” enthuses Fohrenbacher.

The city is also preparing for the Fillmore County Relay Life, a fundraiser hosted by the American Cancer Society. The annual nationwide event is scheduled for August 19.

Events begin at 3pm with a survival tea. Activities open at 4 p.m. The opening ceremony begins at 6:00 PM, followed by the walking tour, which ends at 11:30 PM. The circular, light-lit route runs from City Park north on Cedar Street, west on First Street and east on County Road 8. Signage throughout the city directs attendees to events and activities.

“I have a very good feeling that this is a running lap,” said Fohrenbacher, who acts as organizer. “It’s really coming together.”

Other events are held in the community center. City Hall will host the silent auction where over 400 donated items can be bid on. All proceeds from the run honoring survivors, caregivers and cancer victims go to the American Cancer Society for research, prevention, detection, education, patient support and support services for the organization.

The city will establish blockades on the Cedar, First, and Main Street loop sections. Cars must be cleared from the road before 6pm. Organizers are looking for volunteers to help safely cross County Road 8 during the walk. They also need volunteers for the silent auction and activities set up during the event and in advance. Set-up takes place on Thursday evenings from 6.30 p.m. and during the day on Fridays from 8 a.m. until the early afternoon. Beaver Bottoms Saloon, Village Square and Branding Iron donate meals to volunteers.

“Everything is moving forward,” added organizer/volunteer and top fundraiser Marilyn Schreier. “Overall it comes together. It’s only two weeks away!”

“She’s a go-getter like you,” Councilor Ron Reisner nodded to Schreier and then to Fohrenbacher.

“She’s ten times more than me,” Fohrenbacher replied. “She’s a rock star.”

Resident Barb Yetter was on hand to discuss an issue she was experiencing at her property at 201 Main Street. According to Yetter, a recent pork-a-cue drive-through fundraiser by the Fillmore County Pork Producers kept the area around her home busy and blocked her driveway with traffic. “I couldn’t back out of the driveway. People go bumper to bumper and really aren’t polite,” she noted. “It’s a safety thing.”

Mayor Jim Schott suggested that Yetter park their vehicle on Main Street for the duration of the event to avoid using the driveway. Yetter argued that she didn’t have to and that she raised the issue with the pork producers’ organization. “I told them I would take it to the council and then to the sheriff’s department if I had to,” she added.

It was the second year in which the successful event was run. “You’re doing a good job, but I understand your concern,” Schott said. “For that one afternoon if you just park it at the curb and leave it there until they’re done. That is part of the essence of an event.”

“I know it’s a good event and it brings people to the city. I was just having a horrible time,” Yetter replied.

The next regular meeting is Wednesday, September 7 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The public is encouraged to participate.

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