Connecting downtown with Waupaca River
By Angie Landsverk
The city of Waupaca plans to improve the community’s connection to the river running through its downtown.
“This came out of the downtown visioning committee. That’s why we’re here,” Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson said during a recent open house on the front lawn of City Hall and the public library.
He was referring to the plan to reconstruct and redesign Main Street.
Last April, RDG Planning & Design unveiled the proposed redesign of Main Street.
The city hired that firm in early 2016 for the Main Street reconstruction and redevelopment plan.
The infrastructure under the street is more than 100 years old.
The reconstruction of the street, from Badger to Water streets, is scheduled to begin in 2021.
The project will include new utilities under the street, with concrete currently being proposed for the street itself.
It will also include new curb and gutter, decorative concrete sidewalks, new street lights, benches and landscaping.
The plan the firm presented to the city identified the Waupaca River as an underused asset.
As a result, city staff recommended a Rotary Riverview Park plan update.
The park is located along the Waupaca River on Cooper Street, behind Main Street.
Last May, the Waupaca Common Council approved a $75,020 budget to update the park’s plan.
RDG Planning & Design, as well as SEH Engineering, are involved in the work.
SEH Engineering is also a consultant for the city’s Main Street project.
While the area being updated centers on Rotary Riverview Park, it also includes the other parks in the downtown area.
Those parks are Rasmussen Park, Schwenn/Lions (Hidden) Park, Serenity Park and Washington Park.
Ideas for parks
During this month’s open house, ideas a city steering committee has developed thus far to enhance and connect downtown to the river were presented.
Those ideas include a riverwalk/boardwalk, canoe/kayak launch, memorial plaza for veterans, climbing wall and the addition of speed bumps on Cooper Street.
Other ideas include paving the challenge trail along the Waupaca River, expanding Rasmussen Park and creating a formal garden in that area with a fire pit and pergola, having a community garden or plaza in Hidden Park with improved play elements in the park and also establishing and enhancing the urban prairie in Washington Park.
One particular aspect of the plan in which input is sought is related to a footbridge over the river and its placement.
The current footbridge linking Rotary Riverview Park to Hidden Park has been closed for a number of years.
Keeping a bridge there, having one instead by Sessions Street or not having a bridge at all are ideas.
The city wants input on that subject.
Ryan Peterson, a landscape architect at RDG Planning & Design, told those in attendance the area has three unique characteristics.
It has the Main Street backyard, the ability to connect the downtown parks and the opportunity to restore the prairie, he said.
Peterson said many involved in this park plan update spoke about activities taking place in Rotary Riverview Park that give the park a negative perception.
That topic also came up related to Hidden Park.
Peterson thus explained Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
It involves using design concepts to help reduce crime and improve site perception.
These concepts include natural surveillance, natural access control and territorial reinforcement.
Natural surveillance involves using lighting, landscaping and public activities to increase visibility.
The natural access control concept is about using natural measures like open fencing, signage and easy access to public areas to create a perception of risk for offenders while guiding legitimate users to an area.
The territorial reinforcement concept creates a clear line between public and private spaces.
This concept includes programming the space so the public develops a sense of ownership in it, whether through regularly scheduled activities, frequent visits or maintenance.
Rick Wolter said he has spent a lot of time in Main Street’s backyard since he and his wife, Tammy, bought the building at 112 N. Main St.
“Everything affects everything,” he said.
Wolter said an impetus needs to be created so people want to go downtown to live and spend money there.
Jenson noted they need to make sure any improvements made to the parks do not take time away from his department’s other operations in the parks.
Peterson said the impact on the Parks and Recreation Department staff will be looked at.
“The plan is probably for a 15, 20, 25-year period,” Jenson said.
Some ideas will be a priority and done right away, while others will be put away for later, he said.
Jenson said the city is about a third of way through this planning process.
Citizens are encouraged to provide input throughout the next few months, he said.
“We will be having our next committee meeting in December and will likely have one more public input meeting in late winter or early spring,” Jenson said.
He encourages city residents to email him at email@example.com and to attend the next public input meeting to share input about Rotary Riverview Park and the other downtown parks or to ask questions about the process.