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Necessities vs. amenities

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(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
A cyclist uses the path on the Dixon Riverfront in this file photo.

People like to be near the water. That's why homes next to rivers, lakes and oceans come at a high premium.

And towns with more parkland, especially along bodies of water, seem like better places to live.  

One of the reasons I like Geneva Lake in southern Wisconsin is its 21-mile shoreline path – it goes all around. How many sizable lakes have such a feature? I can't think of another one.  

Most lakes and rivers have their share of big houses next to the river, barring public access.

Geneva Lake also has those homes – indeed, large mansions. But the area's earliest settlers required that 20 feet of land directly up from the shoreline be considered public domain – thus making way for the path. 

"Today, their edict provides walkers with an unprecedented view of some of the most beautiful homes and landscaping in the Midwest," says Lake Geneva's Chamber of Commerce website. 

In recent years, Dixon has improved its riverfront, which officials contend will pay off in the long run. 

But the city has taken heat for such improvements, which many residents consider a luxury. Take care of crumbling streets first, they say. 

Such arguments aren't unique to Dixon. Whenever someone proposes a park or other amenity, people often point to rough roads as a reason not to spend any money on extras.

But if we waited to get every street in perfect condition, we'd be hard-pressed to ever make quality-of-life improvements. 

Rock Falls has improved its riverfront by adding a park. Now, Sterling is poised to accept the donation of the buildings at the National Manufacturing site. Whatever Sterling does to improve that site likely will cost millions.

And you'll hear the arguments to improve streets before making such an investment. 

It's a tricky balancing act – necessities vs. amenities. You need both. 

David Giuliani writes for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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