‘Friends of Rhinelander Parks’ seek to improve Hodag Park
Former parks advisory group backs multi-purpose building
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The idea of adding a multi-purpose building along with a community gathering space at Hodag Park was discussed at Monday’s Rhinelander Parks, Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting.
The committee heard from representatives of what is now known as the “Friends of Rhinelander Parks,” which is comprised of individuals who had been involved in the city’s parks advisory group that disbanded this summer after months of work leading up to presenting its findings and recommendations in a report to the committee.
“Over and over again, what we heard about Hodag Park is the bathrooms are horrendous, the park is dark at night, people don’t use it – it’s a safety issue, a hazard issue – and it’s really not that destination gathering space,” Dave Heck told the committee. “What we’re talking about (is) a revenue generator for the city of what parks could do for a tax base. It would be a destination point.”
Heck said the proposed improvements at Hodag Park include a multi-purpose facility with a concession area and bathrooms, along with a gathering space. He noted the plans call for having the facility located by the water so that docks could be there and people could park their boats there.
“Eventually, this gathering space could be used for weddings, ceremonies, get-togethers, which the city could charge for that, which they do in a lot of other cities and parks,” Heck said.
Heck, who provided the committee with preliminary architectural drawings of what the multi-purpose building could look like, reported the estimated cost of the facility ranges from $175,000 to $240,000. He also noted approximately $100,000 has been raised through private donations for improvements at Hodag Park and asked the city to match that amount.
Parks Committee chairperson Sherrie Belliveau raised concerns over the city’s ability to borrow for constructing the multi-purpose facility at Hodag Park with other projects, such as replacing boilers at City Hall, being planned for next year. She also expressed reservations about having a facility that could compete with local businesses.
“If we are going to build a facility that’s going to host weddings, that kind of thing, we need to look at long-term maintenance of that facility, who’s going to staff the facility, will we be leasing that facility out like we do at the golf course, and you know how that’s working for us,” Belliveau said. “Personally, I don’t have an issue with building a multi-use facility in a park. I do have a problem competing with local businesses.”
Committee member Dawn Rog suggested having an entire plan for Hodag Park, rather than doing projects there “piecemeal.”
“That’s something that we need to think about from one end of the park to the other end of the park, so we don’t do something and then realize we shouldn’t have done it,” Rog said. “Hodag Park has some real serious problems with the ground that’s there. I believe the majority of that is basically sawdust. We ran into that problem when we built the shelter down by the boat landing, and of course we’ve run into some ground problems with the other building that we built.”
Heck said he favored looking at an entire plan for developing Hodag Park, noting that a step in the park’s development over several years would be constructing a multi-purpose building, for which private money and borrowing could be available now.
Committee members took no action on the proposed multi-purpose building, for which the possible borrowing is being referred to the city Finance, Wage and Salary Committee.