Survey says: River Falls quality of life up, but it needs more jobs, less traffic

Posted October 16, 2017

Bailey Knight, 22, lives just blocks away from downtown River Falls. Before she heads out the door for work, she runs a lint roller over her black apron. With a new puppy in the house, that sort of tidying up is to be expected.

Before she laces up her black sneakers, she prepares her purse. Crumpled bills come pouring out. A handful of loose change bangs against the counter top; dimes and nickels roll in every direction.

She heads out the door. Instead of beginning the walk to downtown River Falls like she has so many times, she gets in her car and heads north on Highway 35 toward Hudson.

Knight is a server and bartender. She has worked in River Falls for a couple years but decided the bustling downtown area of Hudson was a better fit. “It’s a lot busier (in Hudson) especially during the summer. When the college kids leave (River Falls) it is hard to make enough money serving,” she said.

The city of River Falls conducted a Citizen Survey in June and July of this year, and the results are in. As Knight knows all too well, one of the biggest things citizens wanted to improve in the town was the economy.

Participation was randomly selected, with 1,500 households chosen. Those households completed a survey, which was then mailed straight to the National Survey Center. City Council received the results in mid September.

When questioned about the economy of River Falls, respondents ranked it below the benchmark. In the employment opportunities category, only 36 percent answered positively, while the businesses and services category received a 64 percent. Overall economic health was rated at 74 percent.

Another area citizens would like to see improvement in is safety. Anna Swenson, mother of three and River Falls resident, would have to agree. She has noticed a stop sign by her home often being ignored and is worried about the potential hazard.

“This intersection is crazy,” she said. “I was out jogging with the baby the other day, and if I would have gotten to that intersection five seconds sooner, I probably would have gotten hit by the guy who ran that stop sign.”

Neighborhoods in River Falls scored 86 percent positive, but traffic flow ended up with 58 percent. Police and crime prevention results are trending upward but room for improvement remains, as the scores were 89 and 85 percent respectively.

“River Falls, I would say, is generally a fairly safe community,” Swenson said. “I am a mom of three, I’ve got a 7 year old and a 2 year old and a baby and I’ve always felt safe with them.”

When her children go out to play, she feels at ease. She said, “I never feel unsafe about where they are, but it’s just these little things that I think that we can do to better ourselves as a community, and it’s little things like that: obey the stop signs, look both ways before you pull out, that kind of stuff.”

Although the survey indicates some areas need improvement, overall quality of life in River Falls is on the rise, from 86 percent in 2013 to 90 percent in 2017. The complete results of the survey can be found here.