A lot of questions about Jorgen’s Park were answered at a public information meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 31.
The property was purchased by Anton and Olene Jorgens in 1916 and remained in the Jorgens family until Carsten “Gunny” Jorgens passed away in 2007. He left his property to the community.
Plans are to create a park with walking trails to serve as a living memorial honoring Dora and Carsten Jorgens and their donation.
People interested in the community property filled the meeting room at the Scandinavia Municipal Building.
“This looks like it will become a reality,” said Susan Barlow, a member of the Jorgen’s Park Steering Committee.
The steering committee operates under the umbrella of the Scandinavia Booster Club, which currently holds the deed to the property. Other committee members are Carl Lantz, Wally Mueller, Dave Stoiber and Marilyn Thwaits. Barlow and Thwaits serve as co-chairs.
Currently, it is an advisory committee that can only make recommendations to the Booster Club concerning Jorgen’s Park. After the park is approved for nonprofit status and forms Friends of Jorgen’s Park, Inc., the deed for the park will be transferred to the corporation.
According to Thwaits, the articles of incorporation were received on Aug. 1. The nonprofit status is expected to be approved by January 2012.
The Friends of Jorgen’s Park, Inc. will be a separate entity from the Scandinavia Booster Club. People are needed to serve on the board of directors of the new organization.
The steering committee has been meeting monthly to handle everything involved with Jorgen’s Park and the formation of the Friends of Jorgen’s Park. They recently inspected the land and farmstead.
“It was sad for me to see the condition of the buildings,” Thwaits said. “That was a real shock for me.”
She said the buildings were located in a grove of oak trees that probably predate any settlers in the area.
“We don’t want to damage the trees if we demolish the buildings,” she said.
“We’re hoping to save the silo as a tribute to the Jorgens,” Stoiber said.
Several people objected to the idea of razing the buildings.
“I think the barn is in better shape than the silo,” one man commented. “The silo roof is caving in and the silo is twisted.”
Community members asked if the buildings would be burned or razed.
“There are restrictions on what we can burn and how to dispose of the burned materials,” said Dell Mork, chief of the Scandinavia Fire Department. “It can be very expensive and time consuming.”
“It won’t be burned,” Mueller said.
The committee plans to recommend to the Booster Club that the house and barn be razed.
Barlow said it would cost about $3,000 to $4,000 to raze the buildings, after removing any salvageable materials.
Lantz talked about the need to clear the forest before starting work on the proposed Gunny’s Hiking Trail. He said they plan to work closely with the Waupaca County Parks Department to develop a forest management plan.
A community member objected to this.
“I don’t agree with what (the so-called professionals) see as forest improvement,” he said. “It’s economic versus ecologic. Trees are more than wood. The fallen trees fertilize the land for other trees.”
An audience member asked if there were any funds designated to the Jorgen’s Park project.
The committee said there is about $2,000.
People asked what happened to the pledges and why they were never asked to honor the pledges, which allegedly would have raised about $4,700.
The committee said there are no outstanding pledges.
“The outstanding monies were satisfied so we didn’t call for outstanding pledges,” Mueller explained.
The public census was that these pledges could still be collected. “It will be easy to get (the pledge program) going again once people see things are being done,” one person commented.
The community members were also concerned about the weed problem in Silver Lake, which borders the Jorgen’s property. Mueller encouraged people to attend the Scandinavia Village Board meeting on Sept. 13 to hear how the village plans to deal with this problem. He also referred to a fertilizer runoff problem from the school’s football field, which is across the highway from the lake.
The steering committee announced it has applied for a conservation easement from the Northeast Land Trust (NELT). There is a $10,000 one-time fee that covers the life of the easement. In return, NELT does an annual inspection and provides legal service to protect the easement.
Some of the people in attendance were concerned about how much control NELT will have.
“They aren’t interested in land that may be developed,” said Thwaits, who served many years as a volunteer for a land trust.
Other committee members thought the amount of control could be negotiated once the NELT completes its assessment of the property.
The steering committee will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19, at the Scandinavia Municipal Building. All meetings are open to the public.
“We love your help and your input,” Barlow said.
Some people were concerned about the Iola-Scandinavia School District leasing the property to use as a school forest.
“We see it as a win-win situation,” said Todd Snyder, a science teacher at the I-S schools. “Getting young kids involved, gets adults involved.”
Snyder explained that the property has potential for educational opportunities for the school district’s students. He noted that Jorgen’s Park will also benefit from being a part of the school forest program.
Recently, the school district applied for grants from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB). Grants could provide as much as $30,000 to improve the school forest areas.
In addition to being eligible for WEEB grants, schools that have land in the school forest program receive free seedlings and free forest management assistance from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
A community member asked if the school can do whatever they want with the school forest. “No,” the committee replied. The school district must get approval from the deed holders for the property.
“It will take teamwork,” Thwaits said.
Snyder noted that the current school forest three-year grant does not begin until the 2012-13 school year. “We won’t do much right now, maybe just some testing,” he said.