About 30 people recently gathered at Scandia's community center to discuss how the city can put itself on the map as a tourist destination.
The meeting, held by the Scandia Heritage Alliance, included presentations on two potential projects designed to attract visitors: a welcome center and an arts and heritage center.
The arts center project could include the reconstruction of the Tower Barn, believed to be Minnesota's last "tank house" before it was dismantled in 2014.
The nonprofit Heritage Alliance advocates for the preservation and renovation of historic buildings in and around Scandia and promotes the area's cultural heritage, art and history as the first Swedish settlement in Minnesota.
"Even though we are a small place, we have a lot of assets that we could leverage," said John Herman, a board member for the Heritage Alliance.
Identifying those assets and the best ways to highlight them was the goal of a tourism assessment that the northern Washington County city of 4,000 recently completed with the University of Minnesota Extension office.
Recommendations that came out of the tourism assessment yielded several short- and long-term ideas to enhance the area's appeal, including a new visitor center.
As Scandia maps its future, it needs to identify how to "honor, support and ensure the future of [its] assets and its unique sense of place as we experience growth," said Mayor Christine Maefsky.
At the recent community meeting, the group sought feedback from area residents and opened discussions about the idea for the arts center, which could be placed near the ball fields off Olinda Trail and across the street from Gammelgarden, a park and open-air museum on Swedish immigrants.
That area also could include an outdoor amphitheater and a boardwalk over the neighboring wetlands.
Based on the feedback, the board plans to establish three task forces: one to find an architect to consider the visitor center's location, another to identify short- and long-term funding, and a third to produce interpretive signage along a 10-mile walking and biking trail that connects the area's historical sites.
The alliance also has launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for rebuilding of the Tower Barn.
"We are thrilled to have community involvement because we want to see residents really embrace it," said Susan Rodsjo, a member of the Heritage Alliance's board.
Rodsjo credits Maefsky with supplying the energy that helped launch the tourism effort.
"This has all come together because of her incredible vision for this community," Rodsjo said.