The city of Waupaca celebrated the generosity of the community when it dedicated South Park’s new pavilion on July 2.
Late that afternoon, private donors and city officials were among those who gathered at the new shelter for the dedication, ribbon cutting and picnic.
“It’ll be open from then on and out,” Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson said several days before the event, as members of the Waupaca County Master Gardeners worked on the landscaping around the new pavilion.
“It’s been a long process. It started before I was involved,” said Jenson, who became Waupaca’s parks and rec director in April 2013.
The discussion about the need to update Waupaca’s oldest park began about five years ago.
Upper South Park had not seen major improvements or renovations in 40 years.
Its shelter and bathroom facilities were not handicap accessible, and the playground was dated.
The city planned a four-phase $1.5 million renovation project for the park.
It set a goal of raising $500,000 in private funds over a five-year period for the project, with the balance of the funding then coming through $500,000 in grants and $500,000 from the city in the form of in-kind labor and materials, donated land, grants matches and cash as budgets allowed.
A total of $535,000 was pledged in private donations.
The first phase was the largest part of the overall project, with a projected budget of $695,000.
City Administrator Henry Veleker secured a $339,150 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Stewardship Grant for Phase I.
The funding for this part of the park project also included $230,000 in private donations, $12,000 from the park’s operating account, $25,000 from the city park fee account, $12,000 from the development department’s operating account, $15,000 from the Friends of the Parks, $16,000 from the city’s water utility account, $16,000 from the city’s storm sewer account, $15,000 from the city’s sidewalk account and $15,000 from the Rick Johnson Donation Account.
The first phase included a new pavilion that has a kitchen area and restrooms, a patio by the pavilion, a new playground and irrigation on the hillside overlooking Shadow Lake.
During the July 2 dedication ceremony, the private donors were recognized individually.
The donors for the overall park project are Waupaca Foundry, Victor Anthony, Robert and Sandra Wagner, Farmers State Bank, First National Bank, Faulks Bros. Construction, Tim and Joy Neuville, Archie Overy, Gary Thoe and an anonymous donor.
Each donor received a small plaque, and a tree is being planted in the park in recognition of each of the 10 donors. The first of the 10 trees was planted in time for the dedication. The other nine trees will be planted in the fall.
In addition, those who donated toward the project in other ways were included in the program, such as Cubic Fabrication for donating labor to make the South Park sign on the pavilion, the Waupaca County Master Gardeners for the landscaping and Faulks Bros. Construction for the mulch it donated for the flowerbeds.
The dedication and ribbon cutting were followed by a picnic.
“It’s a unique project,” Jenson said. “There were so many people involved over time and so many steps. I don’t think any of us would argue with what we came up with. We are all happy with it.”
South Park’s new pavilion is the only shelter in the city’s park system that has a kitchen.
The pavilion and patio area combined allow families and groups to host events totaling more than 200 people.
Both the pavilion and the patio have the capacity for 120 people each, Jenson said.
The city expects this new pavilion to be a popular one.
People may begin to reserve it at 7:30 a.m. Monday, July 7, in the Parks and Rec office.
The current fee structure is $50 for residents and $70 for non-residents, with an $80 deposit. Those who want to have beer at an event need to purchase a $10 beer permit.
“The Parks Board sets the fees and will be discussing the fee structure for this specific shelter at its July 10 meeting,” Jenson said.
Those who reserve the shelter prior to that meeting will be locked into the current rates, he said.
The playground was installed the week of June 16.
It was a supervised installation, Jenson said.
Doing the work were city employees Earl Dennee, Roger Hansen, Josh Peterson, Dennis Trinrud and Mike Walkush.
The playground surface is an engineered wood fiber.
“The difference is its considered handicap accessible,” Jenson said. “This is the first universally accessible playground in the city, which means 50 percent of it can be accessed by a wheelchair.”
Jenson said some of the things incorporated into the playground are the result of talking to students at Waupaca Learning Center about what they wanted to see in the new playground.
He showed them pictures of different playground elements, and the students voted for their favorite ones.
“The main structure is for 5 to 12 year olds,” Jenson said. “The smaller structure and other components are geared toward 2 to 5 year olds.”
In addition to their work on the playground, city crews were also involved in other aspects of the park project, including setting the trusses for the pavilion and shingling its roof.
“There’s so many changes that happen throughout a project, like the patio,” he said. “We had room in the budget to do it now with the savings we had from other bid projects. I think that adds so much to it.”
Sometime in August, the concrete will be poured around the playground and the flagpole area.
Jenson said Waupaca Foundry has also donated $4,700 to redo the Lower South Park fishing pier. The deck, railing and a couple buoys will be replaced.
Plans also call for the community art piece that is a collaborative effort of the city, Waupaca Community Arts Board and Waupaca Foundry to be installed on Saturday, Sept. 20, during Fall O’ Rama.
At last year’s Arts on the Square, community members etched designs into clay tiles for the community art project.
The arts board brought a portable foundry to the arts festival, and representatives from the Foundry and city worked with artists.
A structure that incorporates the 216 tiles is in the process of being built at the foundry.
Marci Reynolds, president of the Waupaca Community Arts Board, said those who made a tile may visit the organization’s Facebook page to identify their tiles and share stories in the comments section about the meaning behind their designs.
The arts board plans to put a book together in the future about all of the stories.
With Phase I of the South Park renovation project coming to a completion, the city is preparing for Phase II.
“We have grant money for that and will start working on it in the fall,” Jenson said.
The city received a $94,240 DNR grant for it, which will fund 50 percent of the $188,480 total cost.
The second phase will include reconfiguration of the parking lot, installation of lighting in the lot and throughout the park, and a shoreline restoration project near the Lower South Park shelter.
“We will work with the Friends of the Lakes and the DNR,” Jenson said of the shoreline restoration project. “We want to make it an educational piece so lake landowners see it. We haven’t applied for (phases) three and four yet,”
In addition, the city applied for a fishing pier grant that would be used across from Bowersox Park. “We will hear on that sometime this fall,” Jenson said.