By Kris Leonhardt
ARPIN — During a March 22 open house held at Powers Bluff Park and Winter Recreation Area, Wood County Parks and Forestry Director Chad Schooley presented the county’s plans to expand Powers Bluff Park.
According to Schooley, the proposed project is designed to protect and preserve culturally significant and environmentally sensitive areas of the park while offering improved opportunities for outdoor recreation.
“That is the purpose of acquiring the property to the north, which was done in 2012 — 223 acres — and with that acquisition we’re looking at constructing an entrance road from the north off of Highway N,” explained Schooley. “It’ll be a .6-mile entrance road, about a 150-stall parking lot, and that will be the location of our multiuse shelter building, and that multiuse shelter building would really be the hub of this new property. … It’ll be usable in the winter months for our winter recreation, but also throughout the year it would be reservable and usable by the general public as well.”
The new shelter would include an open air atrium area with tables, restrooms, a drinking fountain, concessions, and a gas fire pit and a large hall to be used as a warming area for winter sports events or to be reserved for weddings, reunions, and other gatherings that host up to 300 people. A smaller meeting room will also be included on the main level and could accommodate up to 70 people.
The lower level will be used for equipment rental, including downhill and cross county skis, snowboards, sleds, snowshoes, and ice skates. The floor will also house a first aid room, lockers, and a restroom.
Schooley said that the current shelter might then become a cultural or historical center.
The proposed development would also include lighting for the ski-tube hill, snowmaking equipment, work on the trail system, a three-acre pond, playground equipment, ice skating rink, and work on a sledding hill.
The Powers Bluff Development Project would total $4.5 million, most of which will be funded by donations.
A capital campaign for the project began in January. Schooley hopes to have the funds raised in two years with groundbreaking occurring, at the earliest, in 2019.
Getting on board
In the early 2000s, opposition to work in the Powers Bluff Park came following a proposed plan for large-scale tree cutting. Several groups came forward to contest the plan, citing that removal of the canopy might expose sensitive vegetation and disrupt culturally significant monuments.
The county worked with these and other groups to devise a long-term master plan that was approved by the Wood County Board of Supervisors in 2005. The idea of the proposed addition originated from these plans.
At the open house, Fred Pigeon of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation stated that the current development plans fit in nicely with the culturally significant areas of the park.
“All of these trees are rich with history that the Native Americans and Potawatomis have there,” said Pigeon. “The significance is there are some burial trees that are still out here, and they are called marker trees. Marker trees look like a big ‘L.’ In the daytime you can really see them, and now you can really see them.”
Powers Bluff, also known as Skunk Hill, was home to a settlement of landless Potawatomi, Ho Chunk, Ojibway, and Menominee Native Americans from 1905 to 1930.