New park project

Town of Albion board members give a progress report at Friends of the Black River meeting about a new town park for the former Rustic Mill restaurant site. Holding a framed feed bag from the former Charter Oak Mill, Albion Town Supervisor Dan Hannan assisted Town Chair Leonard Olson, center, and Town Supervisor Tom Tomter in giving the update.

A green space and gathering place will be created out of the ashes of a restaurant destroyed in an arson fire in 2011, according to a recent briefing for the Friends of the Black River.

Town of Albion Chair Leonard Olson and supervisors Tom Tomter and Dan Hannan presented an update of the park project planned for the former Rustic Mill restaurant site located on State Hwy. 54, south of Black River Falls.

Before being remodeled in the 1960s, the Rustic Mill was the Charter Oak Mill. Built in the mid-19th century, the grist mill ground grain for area farmers.

“A lot of us have good memories of the Rustic Mill,” FBR member Grady Gutknecht said.

After the fire, charred wreckage remained piled on the site until this year. Acting on complaints the wreckage was a public nuisance and an eyesore, the town pressed the county to allow it to remove the debris.

After the county took possession of the property through tax deed, the property was transferred to the town and the town undertook the cleanup of the rubble.

Since getting oversight of the land, the town has also been clearing the underbrush with help from Black River Correctional Camp inmates. Some of the trees on the land have also been harvested.

“We want to get it back to the way it used to be,” Olson said. “It can be used for taking photos and having parties. A month from now, you should see a nice shiny building. We’ve already had people ask us when it will be ready (for use).”

Olson said local businesses and agencies have supported the creation of the wayside park.

“It’s a community project,” Olson said. “The feedback has all been positive. Everyone we talked to has been so good to us. It’s amazing how they’ve all come together.”

The footings for the 24-foot by 40-foot shelter have been poured and Nordstrom Construction and Lumber has been contracted to build the shelter that will have power and plumbing. The handicap accessible building will be constructed so three of its sides can be opened and have an enclosed ceiling to prevent birds nesting in exposed rafters.

The area around the shelter and along the creek will be landscaped with a hiking trail. Other suggested amenities include benches and planters made by student groups such as the NEXUS program and the FFA club.

“It will be a special spot for people for years,” said Albion Supervisor Tom Tomter. “There’s a flat area above where the dam was where we could have a viewing spot.”

Other ideas for developing the site include erecting a historical marker with information about the former grist mill and putting in a replica water wheel. Tomter said that while the water wheel can’t go into the stream, it could be set up nearby.

In keeping with the historic aspect of the site, Olson said one wall of the shelter will be used to display memorabilia about the mill and restaurant.

A town employee told Olson he might know where the grind stone is. One item that could be part of the display is a hand-hewn timber found in the charred remains of the restaurant. He mentioned the site could be a used for field trips by students studying local history.

The town is using the funds it received from the American Transmission Co, for the project. The power line company has been erecting high-voltage power lines across the state and awards funds to municipalities through which the line passes to compensate for the company’s use of the land.

The town of Albion presentation was part of FBR’s ongoing mission to bring educational programs about the environmental and conservation issues to the community.

For more information about FBR, email info_fbr@yahoo.com.

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