South Park got a new look in 2014, and the project won the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Grand Facelift Award.
“South Park is one of our signature parks, if not our signature park. For us to do something to improve that park is something the whole city can feel proud of,” said Mayor Brian Smith.
The project received the award during the Chamber’s annual awards program, held Tuesday, Jan. 27, at the Waupaca Ale House.
“The South Park project is well deserving of the Grand Facelift Award. It took a community to make it happen. By bringing private and public funds together the project came to fruition and what a transformation. The new facilities are very functional, and enhance the park, a project we can all be proud of,” said Chamber President Terri Schulz.
In addition to the city receiving the Grand Facelift Award, the Chamber also presented Facelift awards to Chain O’Lakes Chiropractic, Cronies Café & Espresso Bar, Culver’s Restaurant of Waupaca, Dairy Queen/Brazier, Paws-N-Claws, The Red Mill, Stu’s Design Center, United Country-Udoni & Salan Realty Group and the Waupaca Curling Club.
South Park is Waupaca’s oldest park, and a discussion about future improvements for the park began in the summer of 2009.
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 applied for and received a free technical assistance grant from East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and invited about 20 different groups and individuals to participate in a planning effort.
It completed the South Park Master Plan in late 2010.
The park’s four-phase renovation project totals $1.5 million.
Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson described it as a unique project involving many people, beginning with City Administrator Henry Veleker.
In 2011, Veleker applied for a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Stewardship Grant for Phase 1, the largest part of the overall project, with a budget of about $695,000.
He secured a $339,150 grant.
When the city planned the four-phase project, it set a goal of raising $500,000 in private funds over a five-year period for the project, with the balance then coming through $500,000 in grants and $500,000 from the city in the form of in-kind labor and materials, donated land, grant matches and cash as budgets allowed.
The private donations totaled $535,000.
The Phase 1 work began in the fall of 2013, and the dedication of South Park’s new pavilion took place last July 2.
In addition to the pavilion, the first part of the project included a patio by the pavilion, a new playground and irrigation on the hillside overlooking Shadow Lake.
“I think you forget sometimes when you get something new what you had before,” Smith said. “The building before looked like it was going to fall down. We didn’t know if we should put money into it.”
Jenson said the old shelter was not only unattractive, but unusable many times.
“When it rained an inch, we couldn’t use one-half of it,” he said.
The old bathooms did not meet ADA standards, and the city decided to include restrooms in the new pavilion. The new shelter also has a kitchen.
A universal playground replaced the old playground.
Playgrounds must be at least 50 percent accessible by wheelchair to be called a universal playground, and South Park is the first park in Waupaca to have such a playground, Jenson said.
“The kids from WLC (Waupaca Learning Center) had a big part in the playground equipment. They had an influence into what it looks like,” he said.
With the city managing the project, city crews handled numerous aspects of it.
“City employees did the demolition, the roof, hung the trusses, did utility work, installed the playground, did the seeding and the planting of the trees,” Veleker said.
Jenson enjoys seeing people use the park at different times of the day and also commented on the number of people visiting the Recreation Center to tell staff they think it was a great project.
“The facelift isn’t done,” he said. “We are working on Phase 2 now, which is the parking lot overlay and a small addition to allow for better flow, and also decorative lighting from the Hutchinson House winding down to the beach house and shoreline restoration.”