Town tries to repair historic stairs - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Town tries to repair historic stairs

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ALMA, Wis. (KTTC) -- A small Wisconsin town along the Mississippi is raising money to repair an important and unique feature -- 11 staircases that travel up the bluffs.

The residents of Alma depend on tourists who come to climb, and now they're trying to repair what years of wear have done to these historic steps.

Alma is a small river town where the streets are lined with art galleries and cafes, and every one of the 781 residents seems welcoming and friendly.

The city only has two streets, Main Street and Second Street, but it's what connects those two streets that makes the city so special.

Eleven staircases that snake up the bluffs.

"You couldn't drive a car up them, but they used to take horses up them in the day," said Larry Farl, the president of the Alma Chamber of Commerce and member of the city council.

And it seems like almost every resident has a story about them.

"Our whole childhood on Halloween, that's what we'd do -- walk up the steps. Even now with my own children, I take them trick or treating here in Alma and we walk the steps," said Elizabeth Walker who grew up in the small town.

But after years of use and Wisconsin winters, the historic steps are starting to show their age.

So the city is starting the process of repairing the stairs. City officials have $11,000 to use for an engineering study, and they plan to use money from tax increment financing to pay for the rest. 

In a town that relies on tourists stopping and climbing, it's hard to find anyone with a bad word say about the expense.

"Anything to keep people coming back is going to make the community thrive, the businesses thrive," said Gail Pommerening, a local artist and gallery owner.

The town plans to hold a public meeting later this month and another in January about repairing the steps after they get an engineering report.

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