Wintermission Eau Claire: Understanding the Challenges

Eau Claire, WI. A city that received 53.7 inches of snow in February; shattering record levels from past years.

With snow mounds as high as the tops of bus stop signs, how can cities thrive? This is in part what the #880Wintermission project takes aim at.

The 8 80 Cities’ team worked collaboratively with local Eau Clairians to spark a conversation on life in winter. We heard that Eau Claire is a vibrant city during the summer months with amazing parks, well attended public events, and committed cyclists, but in the winter months, public life gets put on pause. Public nature trail use declines by 66% compared to the summer and only 13% of community outdoor activities in Eau Claire take place in the winter. We also found that roughly 20% of Eau Claire’s population report more than 7 days of poor mental health in the winter. This stark contrast between seasons sets the tone for the way Eau Claireian’s experience winter.

In 3 days, we conducted 11 unconventional engagement events that ignited a city-wide dialogue on winter. We met with a variety of stakeholders, city officials, and community leaders to start to understand the winter-related barriers they face in the city. We made special stops at the local senior center and after-hours children winter event to hone in on those key 8 and 80 year old perspectives. We also met with newcomers, businesses, and students. We heard people talk about how beautiful winter is in the city, but for many, they dread it. The #880Wintermission conversations are shifting this narrative to one that strives to make winter cities great places for all.

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