Two projects to improve La Crosse’s Riverside Park moved forward Thursday after a pair of decisions by the city’s parks board.
The Board of Park Commissioners unanimously approved hiring HSR Associates to provide a structural analysis of the Riverside Park fountain and gave preliminary approval to a community group’s concept to put a bandshell overtop the Wendell B. Anderson Bandstand, directing the group to work with the city to ensure it follows all regulations. The committee also approved a policy to address ash trees on city boulevards that have been treated for the emerald ash borer.
The move to hire HSR will address longstanding problems with the fountain that serves as a focal point for the city’s most popular park largely due to plastic piping and other pieces that don’t hold up in Wisconsin winters.
Council member Paul Medinger, who chairs the parks board, said the project would restore the fountain to its former glory.
“It’s a gem of the city and that’s just another piece of it,” said Medinger.
The fountain, which debuted during the 2003 Riverfest, was a joint project between the city and the Hoeschler family. It includes seven geysers representing each of the seven rivers in the region.
“That fountain has got significant roots in the community. A lot of people have been married there; high school prom pictures are taken there,” parks director Steve Carlyon said.
However, in the 15 years since, parts have begun breaking down beyond the parks department’s ability to repair.
“It’s just in need of some help,” Carlyon said.
The city set aside $100,000 in last year’s capital improvement budget for repairs, and Carlyon included an additional $100,000 in the proposed budget for 2019, which is in the process of being whittled down by the La Crosse Plan Commission.
“Technology has changed quite a bit. We still want to have the fountain. We still want to put some light on it, but the current structure is falling apart,” Carlyon said.
The fountain is not current running due to problems with the water main underneath Front Street.
Carlyon recommended HSR because HSR architect Kurt Schroeder designed the fountain and understands what’s there, he said.
“He has all the drawings and the ideas to take a look and see, ‘Does it need this or that?’ because it is in disrepair and our goal is to essentially replace what’s there with stronger material and better pumps,” Carlyon said.
The city’s goal is to have it repaired by May of next year, lining it up with the Wendell B. Anderson bandstand project.
Carlyon said the city has been in contact with Jay Hoeschler to get his thoughts on the fountain.
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“We want to include them because it needs to be of the same spirit and intent of when it was put in there before,” Carlyon said.
A consortium of users’ project to put a shell on top of the bandstand in Riverside Park also moved forward, with the parks board voting in favor of the general concept and asking the group to work with city staff members to figure out the details so everything comes up to code.
The group, which includes Rotary Lights, Moon Tunes, La Crosse Concert Band, Riverfest, La Crosse Jazz Orchestra and Explore La Crosse, hopes to raise private funds to add a roof to the bandstand, turning it into a true band shell, both to improve the acoustics and provide some shelter to those underneath.
The preliminary design, developed by architect Roald Gundersen, incorporates a round timber structure with arches mirroring the Cass Street bridge, ash tree columns and a copper fish-scale roof similar to the one on the Pettibone Park Shelter across the Mississippi River.
“This is going to be a shining jewel in Riverside Park. It’s going to be iconic. There’s nothing like this on the Mississippi,” said Terry Bauer of Valley View Rotary Club, the group that organizes the summer concert series Moon Tunes.
The group will need to bring final designs and architectural drawings to the board for approval before they begin construction, and construction will take place after the city finishes its project to restore the bandstand next year.
Carlyon suggested the city host an informational session of the project to gather public input before it’s finalized.
The board also approved a policy to address the 410 treated ash trees remaining on city boulevards, specifically those that are dead and dying despite the treatment.
While the city hasn’t taken down any of those trees yet, arborists will be assessing those trees after they complete removing the untreated boulevard trees. They will identify dangerous or dead ash trees on city boulevards and notify the adjacent property owners of the city’s intention to remove them. The property owners will have 10 days to appeal the decision to the parks board.
“We just want to be upfront with what’s going on and be proactive with these hazardous trees too,” parks and forestry supervisor Dan Trussoni said.
The department is on schedule to remove the last of the untreated trees on city boulevards by Labor Day, and Trussoni plans to do another round of replacement tree planting this fall as the weather starts to cool off.