The newest Chippewa Falls park is emerging from a long unused piece of land.
The Erickson Park project, a crowd and grant funded improvement, was started in spring of 2018 and is still on track with its schedule, planning to finish the improvements around June.
The $2.2 million project was funded half by grants — including the largest Land and Water Conservation Fund grant ever awarded to Wisconsin — and half by fundraising. The Chippewa Falls Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department is continuing to fundraise to get amenities like benches.
Since breaking ground in May, the site has been cleared, sidewalks installed, asphalt put in, and the pavilion and bathrooms installed.
Crews are currently working on the boat launch, shoreline board walk and bridge crossing into Irvine Park.
Ron Bakken, who led the efforts to create the park for six years, said the land on Ashley Lane in Chippewa Falls had been gifted to the city in 1960 but largely untouched since.
The park idea came out of a realization that there was not very good offshore fishing in the Chippewa Falls, then continued to develop after a partnership formed with Special Friends Inc., a Chippewa Falls nonprofit which promotes the welfare of people who have special needs.
The park, Bakken said, will now be connected to Irvine Park and provide access to the water for everyone.
“It’s hard for me to even describe,” Bakken said. “It’s very, very rewarding.”
In addition to the handicap-accessible fishing pier and a board walk, the park will include an observation platform on Glen Loch Dam, a handicap accessible boat launch, a walking bridge to connect Erickson Park to Irvine Park, a bike trail and parking — all within the mindset of access for all.
The project received assistance from a number of people and businesses in the area, including a $100,000 donation by Markquart Motors and a $10,000 donation from Special Friends, Inc.
The city, which coordinated with Bakken after he came to them with the idea, contributed work hours and allocated $60,000 in the 2019 budget for extending the bike trail to the area and redoing the entrance of Ashley Lane.
Dick Hebert, Chippewa Falls’ parks, recreation and forestry director, said the project scored highly for grants because of the combination of its goals, like connecting the parks and bike trail, and improving access to recreation.
“It’s such a unique, exciting project,” Hebert said.
There will also be nods to the history of the site.
Though it wasn’t used for anything except dam access in the recent past, the site had housed a flour mill then ice storage facilities after the construction of the dam, which they’re planning to note with historical markers.
“(The site’s) time to become a park is finally here,” Bakken said.
The $2.2 million project was funded half by grants — including the largest Land and Water Conservation Fund grant ever awarded to Wisconsin — and half by fundraising.