Leadership Cape always has been about teaching groups of 25 to 30 professional individuals in the community what makes Cape Girardeau tick as a city.
Each year, a new class learns about city government that serves us and the police and fire departments that protect us. They visit both hospitals to discover what health-care options are available and what new medical technology the community enjoys.
Groups tour schools and visit the university, taking in what educational opportunities are available.
Along the way, the classmates network with each other and those presenting programs. Long-term friendships and professional relationships are born. Such connections help grow a community.
But perhaps the most important component of the program is making Leadership Cape participants plan projects to better the community.
When the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce launched Leadership Cape in 1985, there wasn't a project requirement. That was added years later, giving students a feeling of responsibility toward the city. It feeds the desire to give something back.
Sometimes the same projects have been presented year after year by class after class.
For example, more effectively promoting Cape Girardeau's riverfront has popped up time and again, and not much has changed.
However, it is a good exercise for project team members to take a problem, analyze it and present a solution.
The projects developed by this year's Leadership Cape class were presented at last week's First Friday Coffee. They were:
Scoutreach. The program seeks to improve the lives of the city's underprivileged boys by encouraging participation in Boy Scouts of America. An awareness campaign targeted an area with the city's highest concentration of minority and low-income children and identified potential Scout leaders.
Eastern Access Amphitheater. The project would bring to the riverfront area a floating, covered amphitheater for performances, weddings, family reunions and festivals. The theater barge would be mobile so that other river cities could rent it. The concrete steps at Riverfront Park would remain as amphitheater seating with the addition of more seating and some tables.
Renaissance Courthouse Square. The historic Common Pleas Courthouse on Lorimier Street would be converted into a one-stop shopping, restaurant, cultural and meeting center. Among the more interesting ideas: The basement level of the building, which once held prisoners during the Civil War, would be used as a museum with tours and a gift shop.
Borrow-A-Bike Etc. A three-phase plan includes providing free bike access and bike racks in various locations throughout the downtown area, constructing a bike trail from Highway 74 to city hall using abandoned railroad right of way and launching a trolley car system to carry people around downtown Cape Girardeau.
Some of these projects are more doable than others. But the process is the most important part. It will be exciting to see what next year's Leadership Cape graduates envision.