The town of Onalaska is taking steps to begin revitalizing one of its parks. The Onalaska Parks Committee is working to replace ash trees removed from the Apple Valley Park that were removed earlier this year because an emerald ash borer infestation.

Though the town did attempt to save the ash trees in the town, the effort was without success.

“We didn’t anticipate losing every single tree,” said committee chair Sandy Thompson. “This may be the most drastic looking park, but it won’t be when we’re done.”

At the committee’s July 27 meeting, a number of Apple Valley residents expressed disappointment with the loss of the trees and asked the town to begin replacing them. The committee met Sept. 28 at the Apple Valley Park to get to work. Thompson presented a quote she obtained from Christen Farm Nursery for $11,440 for 30 trees. Thompson said the nursery indicated it might be possible for the trees to be planted yet this fall.

She informed residents attending the meeting the town has budgeted $31,000 for park maintenance and improvement of its 19 parks, cemeteries and boat landings.

“In our budget, what we are realistically talking about is 15 to 20 trees,” said Thompson.

At the July parks committee meeting, town clerk Mary Rinehart told the residents the best time to order trees is in the fall so they can be delivered in time for spring planting.

However, Thompson learned the nursery has received a supply of trees and could plant them yet this fall. The quote for the trees lists a variety of species which would lessen the loss of a large number of trees due to disease.

“If we have some kind of blight, then we have the same problem (of having to remove all the trees in an area),” said town of Onalaska supervisor and parks committee member Jerry Monti.

Thompson informed the Apple Valley residents she will continue to seek bids for the project and that they could partner with the committee in procuring trees and finding other ways to fund improvements. OPC members suggested residents might consider fundraising to replace the equipment.

“It is possible for private parties to buy a tree and plant it; donors should take care of the tree if they plant it,” said Thompson “The town is legally able to sell sponsorships (for park facilities). We just can’t have donors insist the park be named for them.”

The committee voted to recommend the Onalaska Town Board approve designating $5,000 of the park’s budget for buying trees and $1,000 for their maintenance.

In addition to the loss of the trees, the residents brought up concerns about the condition of the park’s tennis courts and playground equipment at past committee and town board meetings.

The tennis courts have developed a number of cracks, some as wide as or wider than two inches. Although the cracks have been sealed, the courts, which are the only ones in town, are not usable.

Residents reported the tennis courts have not been usable for a number of years and the courts will likely need more work than resurfacing. Several residents suggested a renovation of the facility might include making them multi-purpose to allow for activities such as basketball and pickle ball in addition to tennis.

While committee members agreed the equipment should be upgraded, the town struggles to increase the amount of funds for improving its parks because of levy limits imposed by the state and the amount needed in other areas such as road and bridge maintenance.

In addition to the loss of the trees and degradation of park equipment at Apple Valley Park, the town is struggling to repair damage to that park, other parks and roadways caused by the July 19–20 rain storm.

Two residents attending the Sept. 28 meeting stepped up to agree to serve on the town’s park committee. The committee approved adding Al DeBauche and Ben Bockenhauer to the committee.