Eau Claire Wisconsin: A Sustainable Living Community

Learn about Eau Claire Wisconsin, a sustainable living community. If you want to find ways to make your community family friendly, forward-thinking and energetic, take Eau Claire’s example.
By Dave Wann
August/September 2007
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Barstow Street in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Photo by Jeremy Gragert
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A great place to live you've never heard of is Eau Claire Wisconsin, a sustainable living community. This family friendly, forward-thinking town lives life at a leisurely pace.

Eau Claire Wisconsin: A Sustainable Living Community

This west central Wisconsin city is not a huge tourist destination, and that’s OK with most of its residents. What they like about Eau Claire is its leisurely pace of life, the safety of its streets, and the fact that it was recently named one of the 100 best places to raise children by America’s Promise Alliance, an organization that works to ensure the well-being of children and youth. Eau Claire resident Zeus Stark says, “Living here is kind of like you went back in time 20 years. People take the time to look you in the eye when they talk to you.”

City leaders took the time to ask citizens, “What do we have here that’s worth protecting and enhancing? What does Eau Claire need in order to be a better place?” In brainstorming sessions called “The Idea Lounge,” participants identified the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers as one of the city’s finest assets — a valuable link to the area’s heritage — even though its industrial years (sawmills, coal tar plant, battery factory, etc.) had left deep scars. Residents and officials agreed that downtown Eau Claire needed a grocery store and a park in which people can gather. A new strategic vision was born.

It didn’t happen overnight, but a decade after the vision first came together, it’s a reality. Now residents from six surrounding neighborhoods ride bikes and walk to the redeveloped Phoenix Park. Every Thursday from June through September, the concert series “Sounds of Summer” draws crowds to the park, and the new farmers market is a huge success. It draws up to 5,000 community members every Saturday and Tuesday to support local growers and weave a community culture.

Do you live in Eau Claire? Have you visited? Please post your comments below.


Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Population: 62,570
Climate: Chilly winters and warm, potentially humid summers. January average temperature: 14 degrees. July average: 72 degrees.
Median House Value: $139,900
Natural Assets: Chippewa River State Trail, a spectacular riverside trail from Eau Claire to the city of Durland. Access to Wisconsin’s 15,000 lakes and 44,000 miles of rivers and streams.
Sustainable Initiatives: Extensive use of bicycles and bicycling infrastructure. Methane generator at a local dairy operation and increasing use of solar energy.


Check out the other towns on our 2007 list of Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of.


David Wann writes and produces documentaries about sustainable lifestyles. His most recent book, Simple Prosperity, is a sequel to the bestseller Affluenza that he co-authored.








Post a comment below.

 

earthone
12/23/2013 10:49:42 AM
I live in Eau Claire. The Art scene (music, theatre, galleries, artists, etc.) is abundant. The people are hardworking and kind. There is always something to do, and the Twin Cities in Minnesota is not very far away.

Lee Mynett
10/12/2008 2:16:03 PM
I was born in Eua Claire. I moved away in first grade but went back every summer, and then again to college (on the most beautiful campus). Life took me to the south. The music here is good. But the politics are scary. I find myself spending a part of every Sunday looking at real estate and planning to move back when I retire, soon. Like two of my three siblings, I need the walk to neighborhoods, the well-kept yet modest homes, the level of education, the sights and sounds and fragrances of the midwest at its best.

Haoleman_3
7/3/2008 8:57:25 PM
Eau Claire is a very nice area. I live in Lanesboro MN just a short drive from there. Our town is known as the Mendocino of the Midwest with many artists, great restaurants that serve "real food" (not for the bland palate so common here) and a great performing arts theater plus a 60 mile paved bike trail and the Root river with lots of 18" trout in it. Put it all in Hawaii where I used to live and it would truly be paradise. We're rated as one of the top 20 small towns in America too. Come visit sometime. It's a real Midwest jewel.

Melissa_23
8/24/2007 8:22:58 PM
I moved to Eau Claire almost 7 years ago from Middletown N.Y. and I love it The Phoenix Park farmers market is just the beginning of the great things we have here. I encourage people to come and vist us! Here is our valleys website.. www.chippewavalley.net








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