One of La Crosse's most visible landmarks will close later this month for a $1.17 million facelift expected to take five months.
A project at Grandad Bluff will address erosion problems, restore a 1930s shelter, add a cantilevered overlook platform and make the entire site wheelchair accessible. The site also will be re-landscaped with native species.
Plans call for about four feet of soil to be removed and replaced with more stable material, said Steve Carlyon, the city's parks director. That will allow the lower overlook, closed after erosion left the fence unstable, to be re-opened, this time with a cantilevered overlook.
The city will finance the majority of the project, with $417,000 coming from a Department of Natural Resources grant.
Carlyon said it would be too dangerous to keep the site open during construction.
The lookout will re-open in the fall.
"It's going to be a first-class facility," Carlyon said.
Dave Clements, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he welcomes the project, even though it means closing the overlook for the summer.
"I'm excited," Clements said. "The last time anything was done up there was the 1930s."
Clements is working with city officials to come up with an alternative site to send visitors to this summer. But he said nothing can replicate Grandad.
At the state track meet, which brings more than 20,000 people to La Crosse, the top three questions Clements hears: Where do we eat? Where is the river? And how do we get to Grandad Bluff?
"We've known for a long time that the river and Grandad define who we are," Clements said. "Nobody can replicate that. That's the mantle we hang our hat on."