Namesake park enhances pool's personalityArea News
-- A celebration to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Glen Park pool in River Falls begins 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 15, near the pool in Glen Park, 355 Park St.
By: Debbie Griffin , Pierce County Herald
RIVER FALLS - A celebration to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Glen Park pool begins 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 15, near the pool in Glen Park, 355 Park St.
Join a party with touches from 1937 including era music played by the River Falls High School band, a ribbon cutting ceremony and a display of swimsuits seen during the past seven decades.
Pool admission from 1-8 p.m. reverts to what it was on opening day -- 20 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.
Visitors can check out several of the new amenities procured for the pool’s 75 th birthday year including benches, umbrellas, tables and a few improvements such as locker cubes and a bigger deck area.
A plan for the “Glen Park Municipal Swimming Pool,” formed during the Great Depression -- it was a project under the federal jobs program designed by President Franklin Roosevelt to get and keep people working.
During his early career, local architect Herman T Hagestad designed the pool and accompanying bathhouse.
Workers heated the frozen ground with wood fires and dug the big hole with pick axes, hauling the dirt out with wheelbarrows. Building crews also had to heat the soil underneath before pouring the pool’s concrete.
Staffers working on the Civil Works Administration job earned less than $8 per week. The day the pool opened, about 500 swimmers came to take a dip in it.
Park behind the pool
Nearly anytime during its open hours, people flock to the 41-acre Glen Park -- the city’s oldest park. According to information on the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website, it was named after the beautiful glen formed by the junction of the Kinnickinnic River and its South Fork.
City Administrator Scot Simpson said he recently visited the park and felt good about seeing people there and enjoying every part of it.
Present-day park visitors can splash in the pool or river, climb or swing at the playgrounds, run or walk, exercise the dog(s), lie or picnic in the shade of big trees and play sports.
Around the time it was established in 1898, people mainly enjoyed picnicking there and viewing the scenic river, glen, rapids and cascading waterfall below the dam. Generations of people started enjoying the beauty of the area as early as the 1860s.
Local historian Dan Geister said at the behest of other city residents who thought any “proper city” should have a park, the Oliver Powell family donated the park’s first 20 acres.
Though several bridges had been created to cross the glen, flooding usually claimed them sooner or later. In 1925, the Minneapolis Bridge Company designed a high-up suspension bridge that enabled easy access to Glen Park.
That beloved Swinging Bridge has been designated a local historic landmark, as has the 75-year-old pool.
Geister said Glen Park was initially divided into four-foot square lots, and private families were responsible for maintaining them. Some did a lot of work and others did none, so the self-maintenance practice ended after a short time.
He says the Women’s Improvement League at the time also established the Glen Park Lodge in 1912, where earlier there had been a pavilion for orchestra music and later locals organized dances. A combination of collapse and tornado damage destroyed the lodge.
Some locals know that Glen Park used to house a zoo. The local rod-and-gun club bought two bears named Billy and Betty then got other animals from a Bayfield County farmer who’d kept them as exotic pets before he died.
The zoo’s population included bears, deer, badgers, wolves, coyotes, porcupines, fox and lynx. Geister says about 1,000 people came to see the deer’s arrival.
Sadly, Billy and Betty died from poisoning in 1927. Their hides were made into rugs and sold at Freeman Drug to make money to buy more bears.
Geister said many of the city’s older residents remember the zoo, but it isn’t known what year it ended. He knows that in 1936, the zoo’s caretaker died and the deer escaped -- it wasn’t long after that when the animals were released and the zoo ceased to exist.
Some elements didn’t last, but time-tested Glen Park has. It remains a favorite spot of many people to enjoy its scenic beauty and enduring charm.