You wouldn't think the name of a road could cause such controversy.
But in one small town, a potential name-swap between two highways is causing uproar over its potential effects on tourism.
La Crosse County is looking to remove the state designation for Highway 108, which is located outside of West Salem and runs through the town of Mindoro. The county would give that designation to County Highway C, which is more heavily traveled.
While the swap would bring the county more state dollars for road repair, Mindoro residents are up in arms about losing the state highway that they say brings much-needed tourism into their local businesses.
As a community its members call “close-knit,” having a place to congregate is important for this unincorporated town – and that’s where Top Dawgs Pub comes in. Located right on Highway 108 as it winds through Mindoro, this hole-in-the-wall diner offers some good eats along with a fresh cup of daily gossip. Lately, the topic has been the county’s controversial proposal.
Sunday, pub patrons shared their reasons for opposing the swap. One Mindoro resident, David Adams, said he’s lived on Highway 108 for 49 years. As a county highway department worker, he’s spent more than a decade providing maintenance to a road he says he’s maintained a lifelong relationship with – a relationship he doesn’t want to see by any other name.
“I think a lot of these decisions are being made by people that don't have any idea what's going on here or the impact that it's going to have,” Adams said of the potential name swap.
Other residents talked about how family generations grew up with Highway 10 right outside their homes. As an important landscape in their daily lives, many didn’t want to see history be re-written, or re-named.
It’s not only nostalgia that keeps these residents holding on to Highway 10 - if the county would ultimately choose to swap the highways’ names, residents along both thoroughfares would have to change their addresses.
With some patrons that have nearly half a century invested in this highway, it's not hard to see why Top Dawg employees don't want it switched with County C, located right outside West Salem. But aside from customer approval, they've got an even bigger stake in Highway 108.
"We are the home of 108 burgers, and we're on Highway 108,” pub manager Jeni Bunker said. “That's our main marketing strategy,” pub manager Jeni Bunker said. “We get a lot of people from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, a lot of bikers, and they like to stop here.”
“I think our tourism clients or customers will drop off.”
With a main course that reflects the name of the road right outside, Top Dawgs doesn't welcome the swap that would remove a state highway from their front door and potentially injure tourism for the community.
“It's going to raise a hullabaloo, it really is,” Bunker said. “It's definitely going to change the business if it's changed to Highway C.”
Supporters of the switch say it will give the county $3 million in state funding for road improvements, but Mindoro residents say that's not enough for the harm it may do to this small community, and its prime dining.
"I think that this road would probably see improvements if it went to a county highway,” Adams conceded. “But is it worth giving it up as a state highway?"
The county's Public Works and Infrastructure Committee was scheduled to take up the issue at its October 7 meeting, where public commentary is allowed. The County Board will vote on the swap, along with its 2014 budget, in November.