By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – The restroom at Voyageur Park is one step closer to being replaced with something that can be used by more people for more things.
On Tuesday, March 3, the De Pere Common Council unanimously approved replacing the restroom building with a multi-purpose structure, an idea put forth earlier this year by Alder Casey Nelson.
Plans are still in the early stages.
Design, funding sources and a location need to be ironed out.
The vote to replace the Voyageur Park restroom with another structure was just the first step.
De Pere Director of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Marty Kosobucki said although the department hasn’t chosen a location, its eliminated where the building can’t be built.
“The likely location is (from the) current location of the restroom building all the way north to the west side of the bowl,” Kosobucki said. “That’s really the only location that’s feasible for this facility simply because of event factors, landfill and those types of things.”
Alder Jonathon Hansen asked if the project would use the park’s bowl as a kind of natural amphitheater.
Kosobucki said they still have to sift through a lot of ideas and concepts.
“Really we were going for ‘Is this the kind of facility we want to see in the park?’” he said. “There have been lots of ideas as for where. It does need to overlook the bowl to make use of the bowl in some type of amphitheater or stage-type setting. It would be ideal to have the facility to have some level of overlook of the river as well.”
Nelson said a shelter could serve as a spot for small gatherings.
“Having the ability to have baby showers, small weddings and other events, there is a perfect use for the park,” he said.
Nelson said he believes there are ways to at least partially pay for the project, from using $125,000 in money from stadium tax revenue that had been set aside for a now-scrapped amphitheater in Voyageur Park to using the $170,000 earmarked for the restroom upgrade.
“There’s also the $310,000 for the splash pad (also scrapped) that we’re not sure exactly what’s going to happen with, so there are funds potentially to use for a facility like this,” he said.
The council sent the matter of money back to staff to explore funding mechanisms.
In other news, the city will plant 200 trees around De Pere over the next two years to partially replace trees lost to emerald ash borer.
For every two city-owned terrace trees lost as of Jan. 1, the city will plant one tree.
The trees will be paid for by a grant from the United States Forest Service.
City crews will plant 100 trees this year and another 100 next year.
At the February meeting of the board of park commissioners, De Pere Parks Superintendent/Forester Don Melichar said about 200 trees had been lost to emerald ash borer as of last fall.
“We have another 100 marked (to be cut down), and when I drive around, I see a lot more,” he said.
Trees lost prior to Jan. 1 don’t qualify for the USFS grant money, Kosubucki said.
“There is no perfect time to start this, but because we just received the grant, we thought it would be prudent to start Jan. 1,” he said.
De Pere has 1,100 ash trees on its terraces, another 100 in city parks and 500 in wild areas such as trails.
The parks department estimates the number of privately owned ash trees in the city is five to 10 times the number owned by the city.
More information as to which properties will receive the trees will come from the parks department.