Lockport Locks in at the Championship Level

Lockport was chosen as one of the two finalists in the Strongest Town competition for 2021.

Tree Langdon
Apr 5 · 5 min read

MarjorieB, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

You could say Lockport has a lock on this competition.

One area they’ve been working hard on is resolving accessibility challenges and improving alternate transportation options for the citizens.

The locks were a natural choice. The Illinois and Michigan (I&M) canal history is the backbone of Lockport and the community grew up around the canal.

It’s generally flat, so ideal for biking and walking trail development. The I&M Canal trail is eighty-two miles long, and the city has been working with the park district to connect trails, sidewalks, and city trails together in a seamless way.

A 2019 Bicycle Master Plan laid out an ambitious strategy to link northern and eastern edges with downtown and the I&M. They are developing a regional Veterans Memorial trail that runs north/south on the eastern side of town.

They’ve consistently prioritized including bike and pedestrian connections in new developments, in parks, and along City streets.

The Strongest Town Contest is spreading the word about this movement and celebrates communities that are actively doing the hard work of becoming stronger communities. It’s a healthy competition, encouraging communities as they respond to local challenges and make changes with creativity, intelligence, humility, and courage.

Lockport is stoked about making it to the Championship level.

Their City website featured the news on their front page!

The Lockport Pride Initiative is working with community members in a partnership to transform the city.

Lockport is the City of Historic Pride. Pride means investing in our neighborhoods, streets, commercial districts, and infrastructure. We look forward to partnering with you as our neighborhood beautification programs continue to roll out and positive change begins to transform the curb appeal of our community.

Nominations resulted in sixteen candidates that were competing for the title of Strongest Town 2021.

The sixteen candidates were paired up to compete for the next level.

This is from the Strongest Towns contest rules page:

  • SWEET SIXTEEN (March 15–18)
  • ELITE EIGHT (March 22–25)
  • FINAL FOUR (March 30-April 2)
  • CHAMPIONSHIP (April 5-April 8)

SWEET SIXTEEN — Lockport focuses on the Historical Downtown area

At this first level, the Strongest Town team asked representatives questions about their community.

Here are some of the topics they discussed.

  • Your favorite thing about your town/city.
  • Describe alternate transportation options.
  • How affordable is housing and what is the town/city doing to make it more affordable?
  • Are local leaders ensuring the town/city is fiscally stable now and in the future?
  • Are there lots of ways for residents to have a say and get involved in the future of the town/city?
  • In what ways is the town/city supporting people during the pandemic, in particular, getting outdoors?
  • How are they supporting businesses during the pandemic?
  • How are they measuring success?

Supporting business is a key to Lockport’s financial success and they’ve pulled out all the stops in their community plan.

They sought to diversify and created a balance between commercial, residential, and industrial development in their planning. They use fees to accumulate a fund to use to improve infrastructure and use the money to invest in the downtown historic buildings.

Over the years they’ve upgraded the alarm and sprinkler systems and done maintenance that improved the value of these lands as well as improved the look and useability of the area.

Developers are required to pay for the installation of all streets and utilities as well as consideration of a longer than average life span. They’ve been able to reduce taxes in the community while making improvements using developments, without falling into the trap of continuous development that so many cities fall into.

ELITE EIGHT — Lockport keeps small businesses afloat.

At the second level, images with descriptions were used to talk about what made

LOCKPORT focused one of their images on how they were supporting small businesses during the pandemic and in general throughout the years.

Here’s an excerpt from the submissions

“The Lockport community has consistently found interesting and unique ways to support our small businesses, especially as we navigated the pandemic. Whether through the COVID-19 Small Business Grant/Loan program, the outdoor seating the City put in public places or always planning events that surround business with customers, our leaders are committed to caring for each of us. The pandemic has hit my catering and dining restaurant hard and the City stepped up with the ‘Keep our Small Businesses Afloat’ arts program where large businesses that were successful in 2020 sponsored ducks decorated by artists curated by the Illinois State Museum Lockport location. These ducks and an associated passport program with stamps for each location, will then be displayed at small businesses to drive customers into our stores and restaurants. I could not be more proud to be a part of a Lockport community that proactively finds ways to tie events and activities to business success and cannot wait to get my duck after the ribbon cutting this May!” — Marguerite Ruminski, Owner, The Vegan Café

Photo Credit: Steve Streit

Other notable comments in the photo interviews included Lockport Love, a local organization of Police and Firefighters.

They work together to help local families in need. A December parade brings caroling and festive holiday wishes to the families in the community, building connections to Lockport.

This type of community group is another signal that Lockport is a Strong Town.

FINAL FOUR — Lockport shines in its podcast interview.

For the Semi-Final round, representatives from each remaining city met for a short interview with the Strong Towns program director and the host of our Bottom-Up Revolution podcast, Rachel Quednau.

Here’s the full interview.

CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND

Lockport advances to the final championship round.

It was close, but Lockport emerged as the winner in this round.

Lockport, IL: 58% Bismarck, ND: 42%

For the final round, which will determine the Champion, the Strongest Towns team is doing a series of live webcasts. Here’s the schedule:

  • Monday, April 5: Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn will interview representatives from Lockport and Oxford.
  • Tuesday, April 6: Strong Towns program director Rachel Quednau talks with past Strongest Town winners about this year’s finalists.
  • Wednesday, April 7: Chuck Marohn hosts a conversation with a few Strong Towns members about this year’s contest.

The webcasts will be streamed live and available later on the YouTube Channel.

I can’t wait to hear the interviews and learn who wins this competition.

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Tree Langdon

Written by

A merchant of dreams. ♡ I love to connect the specific to the universal in Poetry, and Fiction, exploring Worldview plots. Was a CGA/CPA in a past life.

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Tree Langdon

Written by

A merchant of dreams. ♡ I love to connect the specific to the universal in Poetry, and Fiction, exploring Worldview plots. Was a CGA/CPA in a past life.

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

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