The Xcel Energy utility line under a portion of Riverside Park will see some improvements this fall, and a move to make city parks tobacco-free took a step forward after a pair of Thursday decisions by the La Crosse Board of Park Commissioners.

Xcel's project, which is slated to begin in mid-September after Moon Tunes wraps up, will replace a 40-year-old portion of the 69,000-volt transmission line that runs from the La Crosse substation to the Swift Creek substation.

“It’s is a key part of the electrical service in the city, and we want to make sure it’s in the best shape,” said Dawn Schultz of Xcel.

The portion that’s being replaced runs through Xcel’s easement from near Front and Vine streets to over by the Waterfront restaurant, mostly following the west side of Front Street. Xcel plans to replace the direct buried section of line with a concrete-encased duct bank to eliminate the need to dig up the park in the future.

“It’s going to cause some pain in the neck while it’s going in, but once it’s in, that allows us to, down the road when we need to replace it again in another 40 to 50 years or if there’s an issue, we can simply pull cable through the duct from a manhole, rather than have to dig something up,” Schultz said. “It’s a benefit to us and the community once it’s done.”

Jay Odegaard

Jay Odegaard, Director of La Crosse Parks, Forestry and Recreation

Board member Todd Olson spoke up on behalf of the trees.

“If you know this board, we don’t like losing trees,” Olson said.

He asked that any trees displaced by the project be replaced with plantings elsewhere in Riverside Park.

Parks director Jay Odegaard asked Schultz to ensure that people can still get in and out of the park, especially for events.

Xcel plans to take a two-week break around Oktoberfest and complete the project in early to mid-November. There could be the occasional lane closure to traffic, but access to the park would not be blocked, Schultz said.

Smoking ban

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A ban on smoking in La Crosse’s public parks moved forward after the board unanimously approved it; however, it will require approval by the La Crosse Common Council to go into effect.

“It’s something that I think will not only benefit the park-goers, but it’s going to benefit the environment and our maintenance staff,” Odegaard said.

Seventy-three percent of La Crosse County residents surveyed in 2013 favored tobacco-free parks, beaches and playgrounds; and a similar 2018 Seven Rivers Health Initiative survey found 96 percent of people favored tobacco-free playgrounds.

Banning tobacco limits exposure to secondhand smoke and reduces litter from cigarette butts, which are not biodegradable.

“It’s something that right now we’re focusing on about 20 man hours a week on dealing with,” Odegaard said.

Council member Roger Christians, a newcomer to the board, asked Odegaard about enforcement.

“I agree we should do this. I just wonder how would that be done?” Christians said.

The city attorney’s office will draft an ordinance change similar to laws across Wisconsin, such as in Wisconsin Dells, Appleton and Brown, Columbia and St. Croix counties.

“We have to work closely with the police department on this,” Odegaard said.

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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.



Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering crime and courts for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218 or jvian@lacrossetribune.com.

(10) comments


Maybe the City should start following up on the people that are living in the parks doing their drinking, smoking and whatever else they are doing. Since when does the City own the air and tell people that they can't do something that is completely legal. Novel idea, spend your time on trying out how to figure a way to fix our roads and deal with the insane assessment that was just done to property owners. Oh wait, that might actually involve time and work. Smokers pay taxes and have every right to smoke if they choose. I agree with the comment about banning alcohol at all of the fests and parks then also.

Rick Czeczok

Why waste the boards time on rules and regulations that will be impossible to enforce. How about coming up with ideas on infrastructure, things that can really matter and if left go can cause injury disease or even death. You know the real stuff you're supposed to do to protect the citizenry of Lacrosse and area.


If you don't like it, Comrade, run for office. But first you have to become an American citizen. You can do all the advance studying from your bot farm in St. Petersburg.


Just vape, bros


If your going to ban smoking , then you better ban all alcohol in the parks and fest grounds. Smoking doesn't kill anyone immediately as alcohol can. People drive to and from the fest grounds and parks, have a couple drinks , then get back in their cars and could kill someone on their way home!! So if its good for smoking, its better to ban a alcohol!!!!!!!!!!!!


I'm confident the smoking ban will be enforced as well as the no dogs in park ban is... Meaning not at all.


Only a utility, or government agency, both spending other peoples money, would create such havoc and waste to avoid a circumstance that might arise "in 40 or 50 years."



You've clearly never worked on a project that required future planning.


As I said ridiculous. Time value of money, technological obsolescence, and other uncertainties vs the ease of spending the other peoples money for an over engineered and wasteful pursuit.


How are your investments in buggy whips doing?

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