The city of La Crosse took a step toward turning an underutilized park into affordable housing Thursday after the Board of Park Commissioners voted to declare Wittenberg Park surplus property.
The park, which sits at the end of George Street on the city’s far North Side, is about 8.5 acres, 3 acres of which is undevelopable because of wetlands.
“It’s a park and yet it’s hardly ever used and a big portion of it is wetlands,” said parks director Steve Carlyon.
The city’s community development administrator Caroline Gregerson said the planning department hopes to turn the historically underutilized park into an amenity for the city.
“There were some concerns about some drug activity. It’s on a dark corner on a dead-end in a cul-de-sac. The drug issues have been addressed, but just in terms of the larger picture, it was never part of a large park plan,” Gregerson said.
The property was acquired by the city through a trade with the Housing Authority after a project to develop it fell through. Although some is unbuildable, Gregerson hopes to put together a project that would provide additional housing in the area, possibly even giving people displaced by the rising cost of flood insurance on the north side an opportunity to stay in that area.
“Maybe we can be creative and add a park feature that would be better utilized with the housing,” Gregerson said.
The property is in the floodplain; however, Gregerson said its size would make it fairly easy to bring it out of the floodplain.
She plans to reach out to neighborhood groups and other stakeholders for their input while the city works on the project, which is in the very early stages.
The proceeds of any sale of the property would be put toward capital improvements to other North Side parks.
The city’s marsh trails have official names after the board Thursday approved a proposal by the Friends of the La Crosse River Marsh and WisCorps, which will let the groups move forward with creating maps and wayfinding signs for users.
“The impetus for this proposal comes from a couple different sources: one, just simply trying to bring some common understanding of what trails are called, since some of them are known by several different names by this point,” said Chuck Lee, president of the Friends of the La Crosse River Marsh.
The second reason is to help people know where they are on the trails, preventing them from getting lost and making sure they can be found in case of an emergency.
“You have your phone with you, but how would you direct somebody to where you are?” Lee asked.
The proposal confirms several formal names and formalizes other informal designations including: the Jim Asfoor Trail, Vietnam Veterans Trail, Willow Trail, Grand Crossing Trail, Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. Trail, Cottonwood Trail and the Wood Duck Trail.