The former fish hatchery in La Crosse’s Riverside Park is in the news. The idea to turn it into a wedding venue, Airbnb, and wine bar is gaining ground. Now there is conflict.
Our scope of thought must broaden when considering what to do with tax-based property for the pleasure of a specific demographic. If it continues down this road, the property will be used by mostly young, white, traveling, wine-drinking people.
Some say this is a “beautiful” and “great” idea. And they are right, for young, white, traveling, wine-drinking people. What about other community members who do not fit this demography? What if a Jewish cultural center leased it, making and selling knish and blintzes, drawing people who match their cultural norms? Imagine our Hispanic community remodeling the building for a fiesta de quinceañera venue to celebrate Hispanic teen girls' 15th birthdays, attracting Hispanic relatives from afar. How would La Crosse respond if the building was leased to our Black community as headquarters for Juneteenth, Black History Month, and Kwanzaa? Our Native People culture celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day, and uses bright body painting as a tradition, particularly around marriage ceremonies. Could they lease and remodel the space? We must think outside ourselves to create a space, beautiful and great, for everyone's enjoyment.
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La Crosse has been narrow and sluggish to embrace inclusion and diversity. It is barely picking up pace now, so let’s not go backward when thinking of our community and the enjoyment of our common ground.
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