Fundraising for construction of a facility that kicks off a plan to revitalize the Haumerson’s Pond area and Bark River Nature Park was approved Tuesday by the Fort Atkinson City Council.
The council heard a presentation from the Friends of Haumerson’s Pond, a newly formed organization seeking to rehabilitate the area that formerly was a center of winter recreation.
Organization founder Steve Mode presented his vision of the multi-phase concept of redeveloping the park.
“My theory on this whole park is to have the community build it by the community for the community,” Mode said. “For me, it’s a passion. It is a special place and something that needs to come back.”
He pointed out that young people today don’t even know about skating at Haumerson’s Pond.
“That was the center of the life,” Mode said. “That was where everybody went. The travesty of the thing is that we have lost the generation of kids that had an opportunity to skate there. I think they would have skated if they had the opportunity to do it.”
Prior to garnering approval from the city council Tuesday, Mode twice had made presentation to the Fort Atkinson Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Both it and the council members were supportive of the community effort.
Councilperson John Mielke was nostalgic about the site, echoing Mode’s description of it being the center and hub of activity.
“You guys have done a lot of groundwork already and covered a lot of bases and I just think its flat-out cool,” he said.
Council President Davin Lescohier noted that the project is a good example of what is done in Fort Atkinson.
“As a community, we embrace good ideas and find ways to get things done,” he said.
In this case, Lescohier said, the Friends of Haumerson’s Pond have taken a big idea, mobilized a grassroots effort and established a multi-phase plan to revitalize a part of the community within a few short months.
Citing a statement Mode made at his presentation to the Parks board, the council president agreed that the area was indeed “a gem waiting to be polished.”
The first phase of the project includes reconstruction of a warming shed, enabling ice skating to resume on the pond that saw more than 70 years of residents gliding across its frozen surface.
“What we’re proposing is not only to bring Haumerson’s Pond to life as a skating rink,” Mode said. “What we want to do is put a building done there that is kind of a legacy building.”
The proposed timber-frame building will sit near the edge of the pond and occupy a footprint of about 25-by-40 feet. Mode said he and another volunteer, Craig Roost, have designed the building to appear as if it could have stood on the site during the location’s days as a brickyard almost a century ago.
In terms of viewing the facility as something for skating, Mode acknowledged it would be a rather impressive structure. Organizers considered it as something similar to what might be seen at a state park.
“Skating season can be very limiting,” he said. “The only way we saw fit to do a building like that is to make that park more of a year-round place.”
Following construction of the warming shed, the suggested second phase of the project would include the addition of several mountain bike and cross-country ski trails throughout the Bark River Nature area, as well as a disc golf course.
The improvements of phase two are contingent on acquiring the use of Probst Field from the School District of Fort Atkinson, an open area that abuts the Bark River Nature Park and once was used as a practice facility for the high school. However, today, the school district rarely uses that area and the land is all but abandoned. Mode has met with school district officials, who appear open to working with the city on an agreement that would include the district maintaining a playable soccer-sized field for use.
The proposed third phase of the project would include rehabilitation of the pond itself, including dredging. Mode said this would come later in the development timeline because application procedures permitting required by the state Department of Natural Resources could delay this work somewhat.
Finally, a fourth phase would see the addition of a parking lot for approximately 30 vehicles, along with landscaping around the pond and trailhead area to finish off the project.
Mode said that although the organization eventually would like to see all its plans realized, the keystone to the development is construction of the building.
“It is something that park deserves,” he said. “It is kind of a blight right now. The nature trails are beautiful, but there is a lot of it that could be upgraded and could be very nice.”
For the design process, Mode said organizers have met with those who will be in charge of maintaining such a structure.
Current plans call for the building to be designed with three large garage doors to open during flooding and allow water to run right through the building instead of expending city efforts sandbagging. Additionally, building materials below the 100-year-flood mark will be cream city brick and concrete to aid in cleanup, with no metal or wood appearing on the structure until well above the high-water mark.
Mode said the DNR has given its approval of the proposed building site.
He acknowledged that he and Roost have an aggressive schedule.
“Our goal is to have a building in place by next winter so children can start skating again at Haumerson’s Pond,” Mode said. “We do know a lot of that is dependent on fundraising, how fast stuff comes in and how fast we can get working on it. We’re trying to get a lot of pieces in place in a short time.”
To make a contribution, persons may send checks payable to “Fort Atkinson Community Foundation” to 244 N. Main St., Fort Atkinson, WI, 53538, or drop it off at the chamber office between Monday and Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Indicate on the memo line that the tax-exempt donation is for Friends of Haumerson’s Pond fund.
Direct donations can also be made by credit card at http://fortfoundation.org/donor-information/make-a-donation-now.
Further information on how to made specific contributions will be released as available through the Friends of Haumerson’s Pond. Those interested also may follow the group on Facebook.
Also Tuesday, the city council members:
• Approved a $23,125 bid from J.W. Schultz Construction for the 2013 curb-and-gutter contract for installation of 2,500 linear feet of curb-and-gutter on Hilltop Trail.
• Authorized waiver of the city’s sewer ordinance for Chemair Helicopter Inc. to construct a hangar at the airport.
• Amended the zoning of 1040 Whitewater Ave. from R-1, single family residential to R-3, multi-family residential/office district.
• Reviewed and approved minor amendments to the listing contract with MLG Commercial Inc. for the Klement Business Park.
• Approved a Class A intoxicating liquor and fermented malt beverage license for Fort Community Credit Union d/b/a Sai-Mart 2 at 1285 Madison Ave.