Simpson’s agreement includes stipulations
By Bert Lehman
The Clintonville City Council unanimously approved accepting a gift of 17.2 acres of land from Lynne Simpson at its June 14 meeting.
The agreement between Simpson and the city calls for the land, located 150 13th Street in Clintonville, to be used to create a nature or park area.
According to the agreement there are permitted uses for the land, including nature preservation, boating access, fishing grounds and access, disc golf, trails for hiking and biking, playground equipment and a dog park.
The agreement also includes prohibited uses for the land.
The property is to be named “Seven Maples Nature Area” according to the agreement.
The agreement also calls for Simpson to provide the city of Clintonville with a grant for the purpose of demolishing the previously occupied and damaged house on the property.
In an interview with the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette, Simpson said she and her late husband Jim, originally bought the property in 2000 so Jim could build a disc golf course because the nearest course at that time was in Appleton.
“I have a clear memory of being in the front yard looking towards the west with Jim and talking about our dream of donating the land to be a park or natural area when we were done living here,” Simpson said. “Of course I’m sad that Jim didn’t live to see the donation happen. The timing also isn’t what I would have chosen but after the vandalism of the home last fall I need to move on.”
The house on the property was damaged on Oct. 15 of last year as the result of arson and burglary.
Simpson said that she knew within days of the vandalism to the house that it was time to donate the land.
“What happened at the house I guess was my sign that it was time,” she said. “It’s not what I would have chosen. I anticipated being here at least a few more years, but it didn’t make sense to me, knowing our long range plan was to donate the land. It didn’t make sense to redo the house now.”
The property has been privately owned for some time. When the Simpsons bought it from Dorothy Auld, a covenant was included that prohibited the land from being subdivided.
“Although this land has been privately owned for a long time, I came to realize that in some ways, it has always belonged to the public,” Simpson said. “Many people who grew up in Clintonville have shared their stories of fishing here, walking the shoreline, or even skinny dipping off the point,” Simpson said.
Simpson’s oldest son Josh, added, “It just seemed like the best thing to do. Obviously we have a lot of memories growing up here, but realistically it’s just too huge of an area for our mom to take care of by herself. Donating seems like the perfect way to make sure it doesn’t get turned into a Wal-Mart parking lot, while at the same time making it an area for everyone to enjoy.”
Lynne Simpson said the Seven Maples Nature Area name is in recognition of the maple trees on the property.
“The old maple trees are one of the things that make this land special,” she said.
She shared a story about when they had to remove a maple tree from the property when an addition was added to the house.
“Fascinating to us, deep in the trunk we found a maple syrup tap,” Lynne said. “We counted the rings and it had to have been placed in that tree more than 100 years before that. That’s pretty neat.”
The name also pays tribute to the first disc golf basket Jim installed on the property, which was located within a circle of seven old maple trees.
“Having that name carry forward is important to me and my family,” Lynne said.
Lynne said she has a preference for what the land will be used for, but wants the end result to be what the community wants within the parameters of the gift agreement.
“I tried to keep the gift agreement to the things that are important to me and my family, but to leave the rest fairly open,” she said. “I do think keeping it fairly wild would be really great. The city has wonderful parks that are more traditional parks that are open. I think it would be nice to keep this wild and have it be nature trails and fishing along the shoreline, those types of things.”
She said she would like to see a paved path connecting 13th Street and Fairway Drive, so it can be used by walkers with strollers, bicyclists and runners. An existing network of mowed trails already exists on the property.
“I hope those will be maintained,” Lynne said. “I’ve seen deer, great horned owls, barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, many kinds of song birds, ducks, turkeys, turtles, red fox, gray fox, raccoons, and lots of rabbits here. I kept expecting someday to see a black bear in the blackberry patch but that never happened. I’ve practically stepped on a newborn fawn about the size of a dinner plate curled up in the underbrush. So, I’d like much of the land to be left wild so that the animals remain.”
The main thing the family wants is for the land to be used.
“What we don’t want is for it to become some mystery space that no one ever enjoys,” Josh added. “A lot of the details are in the donation agreement, but the general idea is for it to be an outdoor recreation space. Whether that includes cross country skiing, a skate park, a community garden, a dog park, or hiking trails, we just want it to be an outdoor space that people go out and have fun in.”
Prohibited activities are those that can disrupt a natural area, such as trails for snowmobiles or ATVs, Lynne said.
“Buildings other than a park pavilion are also prohibited. Sports fields are not allowed because other parks in the community already have them,” she added.
Lynne said the property is a special place and that her family is happy to know that it will stay intact for people to enjoy for generations to come.