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La Crosse Council gives final approval for Coulee Recovery Center rezoning

Coulee Council on Addictions’ new building will move forward after an emotional decision Thursday by the La Crosse Common Council.

CCA executive director Cheryl Hancock had tears of joy in her eyes after the 10-3 vote, which just barely approved rezoning the property owned by Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare where the nonprofit plans to construct its new facility.

Hancock

“It will send such a positive message for those seeking long-term recovery in our community, and those who may be struggling with that decision to seek long-term recovery,” Hancock said.

CCA plans to construct a 13,000-square-foot facility to be called Coulee Recovery Center on the 900 block of Ferry Street which would provide support and programming to individuals and families struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. The new building will replace CCA’s 6,000-square-foot facility at the corner of West Avenue and Jackson Street and give the group more room for programs Hancock said it sorely needs, such as alcohol assessments, peer support groups, sober social activities and early intervention programs.

Although council members all praised the nonprofit’s mission, the decision to rezone the property was controversial as neighborhood residents objected to the recovery center being built on property that they said would better serve as family residences.

“To me and to those that live in this neighborhood, this is a residential block, and I believe we should try to keep it that way,” said council member Jacqueline Marcou, who voted against the measure along with council president Martin Gaul and member Barb Janssen.

Marcou

Gaul

Prior to Thursday’s decision, the block, which is part of Mayo’s campus in the heart of the Washburn neighborhood, was primarily zoned for multifamily residences, such as an apartment building.

“Because of this block’s current zoning, there is amazing potential for the kind of growth and resurgence that the city has been advocating for,” Marcou said, citing the city’s quality housing shortage and commitment to neighborhood revitalization in Washburn.

Marcou argued that rezoning the property, which is adjacent to two homes built as part of the La Crosse Promise program, was a disservice to those people the city and La Crosse Promise program asked to help bring families back to troubled neighborhoods.

Gaul concurred, saying the city should honor the vision of the Promise program and avoid the mistakes of the past which led to the housing challenges the area currently faces.

“While I stand in support of both CCA and Mayo, I also stand in support of La Crosse,” Gaul said, adding that the decision will “set the tone for generations to come for that neighborhood.”

Other council members, including Phillip Ostrem and David Marshall, remained unconvinced that the neighborhood’s objections outweighed the good CCA does for the community.

“We, I think, as a society are past the point where we want to hide people away, and it’s time for us to accept people as they are, and more importantly we need to accept people for what they want to be,” Ostrem said. “There are thousands of people that CCA helps and it’s very, very important that that help continues.”

He added that if he thought any adjacent property owners would be harmed, he wouldn’t support it.

Ostrem

Olson

Council member Jessica Olson also spoke in favor of the rezoning, pointing to CCA’s 40-year history sitting next door to residential homes with little incident.

“My constituents who currently live next to CCA have said nothing but positive things about CCA’s presence on their block,” Olson said. “This organization has a track record going back decades of success and responsiveness and responsibility.”

As part of the rezoning, CCA agreed to provide a payment in lieu of taxes each year to the city. The PILOT is calculated based on the current property tax value of the parcels.

“Now all the work begins,” Hancock said.

That includes both finishing the plans and starting construction, and working to meet with neighbors and find a way to heal.

“We need to keep our promises to work with the neighbors,” Hancock said.

The council also approved a resolution to exempt CCA from parking requirements, allowing the new facility to have 31 spots in its parking lot, 15 fewer than the 46 that would be required by city ordinance. Hancock said the waiver would allow the group to stay on the Ferry Street side of the alley, leaving the Hillview Urban Agricultural Center’s vermicompost facility and garden unaffected.


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La Crosse native's 'big ugly bug' amazes maze fans near Lodi

LODI, Wis. — A La Crosse native and self-described nerd has designed another gobsmacking maze to continue an award-winning tradition that has tens of thousands of people stalking a field on her family’s farm.

Angie Lathrop Treinen’s unique talent in designing dazzling mazes is a far cry from her original career track toward the human medical field as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, although not that far from her eventual degree as a veterinarian, which she describes as her “real passion.”

Even her small veterinary medicine practice has taken a backseat to another passion, the Treinen Farm Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch. It has blossomed into veritable cornucopia of fun she and her husband, Alan, have incorporated into their 200-acre farm near Lodi, about 125 miles southeast of La Crosse and roughly 25 miles north of Madison.

The 15-acre mazes routinely make USA Today’s top 10 maze lists and have snagged other awards. This year it features a trilobite and will be open on weekends through October. Its themes have ranged from the frivolous to the frightening, from rainbows to an enchanted castle, from kittens to killer baby unicorns and a T-rex.

“We were also featured in Science (magazine), which a big deal for a science nerd like me,” Angie said.

mtighe / Contributed photo  

Alan and Angie Treinen’s farm features pumpkins, hay rides and a variety of games for young and old, in addition to the maze.

Tradition started in 2000

The Treinens began the maze tradition in 2000, initially hiring a designer. Angie took over the designing duties in 2006 because designers are expensive, and she wanted to test her own wings. This year, for the first time, she granted an outside request and agreed to make a trilobite, at the suggestion of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Geology Museum.

Trilobites, if you’re wondering, were hard-shelled, segmented, seagoing creatures that haven’t been around for about 250 million years or so. Evidence of their existence remains only in fossil form, but they still fit quite well with Angie’s bachelor’s degree in zoology.

The trilobite rooted in the Treinens’ field is 480 feet long (or high, depending on your vantage point). That is exponentially huge compared with the ones that wriggled on the ground during their heyday in the Paleozoic Era.

For example, the largest trilobite fossil ever found is 28 inches, said Brooke Norstedt, assistant director of the museum who worked with Angie and museum director Richard Slaughter on the project.

But get this: Some trilobites were as small as sesame seeds, said Norstedt, who said the Treinens’ farm will have the 28-inch fossil and other artifacts on display.

Angie was happy to entertain the museum’s trilobite suggestion, although she initially was puzzled about how to pull it off. She finally plotted it with deft programming on her computer.

“Most people don’t know what a trilobite is,” she said. “I had to figure out how, when they looked at the maze, how they would see it. I thought if I did the right design, it would look like a giant, disgusting bug — just like when you turn over a log.”

Aerial photos of the field, as well as a YouTube video detailing the process, reveal what looks indeed like a giant, disgusting bug.

Of course, designing it and plotting it out are not as easy as turning over — or falling off — a log.

Two rows criss-crossed

In the field, the mazes require Alan to plant corn in rows criss-crossing each other, instead of just parallel rows, Angie said.

“It makes for very thick corn,” which is ideal for a maze, she said. “When it is first coming up, you can see the grid.”

Then it’s just a matter of letting the corn grow a bit, but not too high, so workers can mark the grids to mow what will become pathways while the maze walls grow.

Son Thomas, at 19, uses a drone to help monitor how the design is working out, while 15-year-old Patrick helps with the cutting.

The maze is only part of the attraction at the Treinen farm, which includes a 14-acre pumpkin patch with 15 kinds of pumpkins, hay rides and a variety of games, such as a pumpkin slingshot, rope ladders and a bounce house, Angie said.

“Our boys essentially grew up in a playground,” she said, laughing.

Routes through the maze vary in difficulty, with participants filling out maps according to their choices.

About 30,000 people are drawn to the farm for the maze’s five-week season, generating about 80 percent of the farm’s income. The farm’s 120 tillable acres also include soybeans and hay, Angie said.

The Treinens emphasize hospitality for visitors, with 60 staffers, including about 45 teenagers, who explain the ins and outs of the maze.

“Luckily, I love teenagers, and I love seeing them in their first jobs,” with roles also including selling tickets and snacks, Angie said.

Slaughter, Norstedt and other UW-Geology Museum staffers also are on duty during maze days to explain the fossils and other geologic information about the Badger State.

“Fifty-thousand people come to the museum a year,” Norstedt said. “But we like going to other places, too, where people who never get to the museum might be, to reach a new audience.”

The museum tapped Angie’s talent for the project because “we knew her family had a science and math interest.”

Cabinets of curiosity

The trilobite is only part of the maze, although it by far is the dominant part. Angie added extra elements to replicate what are known as “cabinets of curiosity,” which were small collections that often served as launching pads for museums.

Keeping the trilobite company are other elements of Wisconsin’s heritage, including a honeybee, the state insect; cubes of galena, the lead ore that attracted miners to the state and made it the home of the Badgers; a butterfly; a coiled shell from an ammonite, which was an ancient sea creature whose only known fossils from Wisconsin were dragged in by glaciers during the Ice Age; an empty bell jar that features images of all the dinosaur fossils ever found in the state; a spear point found near the Treinen farm; a fossil nautiloid, a marine creature that ate trilobites and once was found in the state, and a rendering of the field microscope that geologist Charles Van Hise used. The University of Wisconsin president from 1903 to 1918, Van Hise is considered the father of the Wisconsin Idea.

“The corn maze is a big creative outlet,” said Angie, who attributes her geek gene to her dad, Dr. Thomas Lathrop, a retired Gundersen Health System internist who is “the biggest nerd you’d ever want to meet.”

“Even at Gundersen, he was the guy who was into computers even before computers were popular” and a driver of what then was Gundersen Lutheran’s switch from handwritten to electronic patient records.

It may seem odd that Angie was attracted to farmers after growing up the daughter of a physician and a nurse — her mom is Lynn Lathrop, a retired registered nurse.

Well, as it turned out, Angie acknowledges now, “I always wanted to live on a farm, even though my parents weren’t farmers.”

Angie was working in her veterinarian practice when Alan brought in a cat. Knowing that farm cats rarely get a trip to the vet, Angie wasn’t surprised when Alan told her, “I never spent money on a cat before.” But he was fond of this particular one — a good mouser — and wanted it vaccinated.

Angie found it appealing that a handsome young farmer was solicitous of a cat’s health.

The next time they ran into each other, Alan said, “Remember that cat I brought in?”

Vet killed the cat?

When she said yes, he countered, “Well, you killed her.”

Staggered and wondering how a cat could die from a vaccine, Angie pressed for details.

“Well, right after you did that, he ran into the road and a car hit him and killed him,” he said.

“Hmmmmmm,” she confesses she thought. “A handsome young farmer with a sense of humor.”

They happened upon each other shortly thereafter in a group to whom he was showing photos of a trip he had taken abroad.

“Hmmmm, a handsome young farmer who likes to travel. I like to travel,” she recalled thinking, laughing at the memory.

Before long the city girl with a fondness for animals hitched her wagon to the country boy who had all the right instincts, and they’ve been a-mazing ever since.


Hancock


ColtenB / Bob Mulock photo 

UW-La Crosse safety Ryan Weber (39) comes in to help Luke Winnen (42) take down Stevens Point running back ShamaJ Williams (34) on Sept. 30 in Stevens Point.