Quiet spot located along Waupaca River
By Angie Landsverk
The latest addition to the city of Waupaca’s parks system is right behind its recreation center.
Serenity Park is located along the shore of the Waupaca River.
It consists of a 15-step staircase and ADA accessible trail, with plans to soon add perennials, a bench and a picnic table.
Planning for the park began about four years ago.
“We have a beautiful riverfront property. I just felt we could take advantage of it, fix it up and make it a nice space we could enjoy,” said Teri Moe, the city’s former senior citizen coordinator.
The senior center raised $14,000 for the project through rummage sales, brat frys, bake sales and by selling cookbooks.
A WisCorps crew recently spent two weeks here working on the project, camping in the rec center each night.
Founded in 2009 as a non-profit conservation corps and based in La Crosse, WisCorps engages young adults, aged 18-25, in direct conservation projects on public lands across the state and upper Midwest, said Program Coordinator Chad DuChateau.
This year, WisCorps conservation crews are working with Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuges, various Wisconsin State Parks and city/county park and recreation departments, he said.
“Our crews will be removing invasive species, maintaining and constructing trails, building boardwalks, restoring critical ecosystems and planting trees,” he said.
DuChateau said WisCorps will employ around 75 seasonal staff and complete about 100 weeks of work out in the field this year.
People may visit www.wiscorps.org for more information about WisCorps or to hire a crew.
He said the Serenity Park project is one of several projects WisCorps has been a part of in the Waupaca area.
WisCorps also worked on a boardwalk and accessible trail on the River to Ridge Trail across from Fox Valley Technical College’s Waupaca Regional Center, he said.
In 2013, a crew completed an accessible trail and boardwalk at Bethany Home along the Crystal River, DuChateau said.
It was Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson who brought up the idea of asking WisCorps to do the city’s project.
After Moe took a look at the Bethany Home project, she knew the group was the right fit for this project.
“They came last fall, gave an estimate and scheduled us in,” Moe said.
The idea was to keep the area in its natural state while also making it a place where senior center classes may be held and people may go simply to relax.
While State Street and Waupaca Foundry’s Plant 1 are nearby, what is heard in this area behind the rec center parking lot are the sounds of birds singing and water running.
“It’s very quiet, serene, the perfect place to hold Tai Chi and Qi Gong classes to feel the peace and the harmony with the environment,” said Helen Halverson, the center’s health and fitness instructor.
Sue Wunderlich is a fitness instructor at the senior center and said the park would also be a suitable site for some Memory Cafe sessions.
In addition to the switchback created by the WisCorps crew, Moe said a natural trail already follows the river.
Moe and Jenson have talked about possibly clearing it out, adding limestone and making it part of the city’s River Ridge Trail.
Areas of the park were also seeded with grass as part of the project.
Master Gardeners donated perennials for the new garden, and Moe said the center’s Garden Committee will decide where to plant them.
Donations of native perennials will continue to be accepted from community members. There are both shady and sunny areas in Serenity Park.
They also hope to receive donations of birdhouses, bathouses and planters filled with annuals. “There are things that can be added every year,” she said.
Johnson Insurance Agency donated money for a picnic table, which will be secured to a concrete pad, and anonymous donations are being put toward a bench for the park.
“The seniors will maintain and water it. Work days are being planned,” Moe said of the new park. “There will be signage at the top. The park crew will continue to do the mowing here. Part of the idea was not to create more work for them, so that was the idea of keeping it natural.”
Halverson said it is a park where wildlife and people may coexist.
With many senior citizens making the move from living in a home to an apartment, Moe said Serenity Park will be a way for them to reconnect with nature.
“It is a gift to the community. Anybody can come down here, bring their lunch, sit by the river,” she said. “I think it turned out exactly the way I envisioned it four years ago.”