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For town Parks Committee, it's back to the drawing board

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Parks Committee Chairman Dennis Zielski again presented his proposal for Anderson Park, W9978 792 St., to the Town of River Falls board Dec. 19.

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Zielski asked the board to allow $1,800 for the planting of native grasses and wildflowers at the park.

During the Dec. 5 regular board meeting, Zielski was asked to present again with a clearer vision for the future.

He returned to the Dec. 19 Town Board meeting with a more concise proposal, including a maintenance plan, a planting plan and a plat of the park.

The first part of the plan has always been to plant 2 ½ acres of native grasses and wildflowers, with a walking path around the planted area. Phase 2 will appear at a later date.

Zielski spent the past two weeks gathering information on maintenance issues. After speaking to a local company that has an established "garden," Zielski learned that a controlled burn would be needed about every four years.

He thought it would eventually be cheaper to maintain the native grasses and flowers than regularly mowing the same area.

The weeds in the area would need to be mowed in the first year and hand-picked the second year. Burnings would follow.

Even Zielski admitted that the committee needed to learn a lot, including what plants to get rid of.

Zielski was cautioned about selecting seeds, since the costs can add up quickly. Someone may need to be hired to help with that.

He did say, "The $1,800 will be the top end of our budget."

Parks Committee board member Rick Cleary pointed out: "All of our budgets have come in way under budget."

The sticking point was still the upkeep of the garden.

Zielski suggested making the next five-year plan be about maintenance. He acknowledged that, "...this could fail."

Board supervisors were concerned about who would take care of the park once the current committee members were no longer involved.

"Having a plan in place allows others to step in," Cleary replied.

Added Zielski: "Someone will take our place. It may not be without changes, but it will work. We have contacts to get the stuff done."

Parks committee member Dan Randall also spoke: "We were asked by this board to be on this committee. We have won awards from the state. And have always made good decisions about our budget."

Another concern with the park is its location within a subdivision that's gone bankrupt and is now bank-owned.

Supervisor Siri Smith worried about a maintenance plan that included burning within a residential neighborhood, as well as the current economic climate

"The more parks the township has, the more maintenance costs will increase and eventually parks will need to come out of the general budget," she said.

Siri Smith also did an unofficial survey and found that most people would not make use of the park for now.

Another Supervisor, LeRoy Kusilek, also found problems with investing in Anderson Park. He thought it might be smart to wait until the subdivision was built up again.

Some supervisors felt it was a waste of money to spend on something that they don't see beauty in.

Supervisor Tom Sitz had been perhaps the biggest opponent to the park's development. Sitz said the town's resources were limited and required the most efficient use.

Zielski strongly disagreed with Sitz's suggestion at the last meeting to leave the park a cornfield.

Town Board Chairwoman Diana Smith also joined in the discussion, saying, "We have a requirement that subdivisions leave a certain amount of land for parks -- that is, a promise that a park will be developed within a reasonable amount of time."

Not all board members were opposed to the plan.

Diana Smith supported the idea, but really wanted the budget costs lowered. Supervisor Brad Mogen loved the idea of the garden but was concerned about the price tag.

The final vote was 3-2 against the Anderson Park budget/park. Diana Smith and Mogen voted in favor.

Zielski and others on the parks board left the meeting feeling disappointed and frustrated.

At the Nov. 21 meeting, a special use and salvage yard permit for Ray Reiter, N7421 County Road O, was approved.

Neighbor Paul Janovec, N7547 County Road O, called to complain that he was not informed of Reiter's plans.

Zoning Administrator Jerome Rodewald admitted that, "Maybe I should have suggested he (Reiter) go out a half mile instead of a quarter mile," while informing neighbors.

Mogen clarified that Reiter didn't ask for a salvage yard license, and it wasn't until the meeting that the board required he get one.

Diana Smith suggested that in the future, "We need to switch to written notifications."

The board made the decision, in November, to grant the license and it will continue to monitor the situation.

Reiter is required to re-apply yearly for the salvage yard license.

Diana Smith received a phone call last week, informing her that the town qualified for $12,856.62 in aid to help with flood repair from the August 2010 flood.

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Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
(715) 426-1046
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