‘Cultural Commons’ Pfiffner Pioneer Park addition moves forward
The Cultural Commons addition to Pfiffner Pioneer Park, first revealed last year as a possibility, is moving forward. The Stevens Point Common Council voted unanimously Dec. 19 to include the Cultural Commons in the city’s Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.
The Cultural Commons is an idea by a collaboration of community groups to create a space in the area where Crosby Avenue turns north at the park, just west of the western driveway to the Chase Bank parking lot.
The Cultural Commons would be circular in shape and divided into three parts. Each part would represent Stevens Point’s three partner cities – Rostov Veliky in Russia, Gulcz in Poland and Esteli in Nicaragua – and feature characteristics of each city’s culture and geography.
For example, each one-third of the circular main area in the Cultural Commons would be modeled after each of the three partner cities with their distinctive architecture and unique gardens.
The amendment to the comprehensive plan says the Cultural Commons will “create a garden and education space within the park to serve as an interactive and dynamic educational experience … leading to a greater understanding of and connection to our community’s past, present, and future multicultural heritage.”
The first phase of the project will include the international friendship gardens and plantings from each of the three sister/partner cities of Stevens Point; Gulcz, Poland, Rostov Veliky, Russia, and Esteli, Nicaragua. The Rotary Club of Stevens Point is partnering with the three groups and will mark its 100th anniversary in Stevens Point with a ground-breaking or dedication in the spring of 2017.
Located on a site along the Wisconsin River which was first used by the Menominee Tribe for seasonal encampments and which later played a large role in the city’s lumbering history, the gardens will provide “a point of beginning” for the community to explore the city’s relationships with its sister/partner cities and beyond. The gardens will be a statement that Stevens Point is part of a wider world.
Fundraising for the project in the community has begun, and the group has decided to develop the project in three phases. There are many opportunities to contribute for individuals, businesses, and organizations including cash donations and in-kind labor and materials. Paving stones, benches and other features will be available for interested parties to donate as memorials or designated gifts.
After phase one is completed, phase two, a small open-air classroom, and phase three, a labyrinth, will be added as funds become available.
For additional project information or to donate, contact Sara Brish at 715-344-2556, [email protected]
During the announcement presentation in October 2015, Aaron Kadoch, a local architect and assistant professor of interior architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, described the vision for the park.
“This is a proposal for a pocket park, or a ‘park within a park,’ a small gardens area within Pfiffner Park,” Kadoch said. “There were several sites around town and this site really spoke to us for a number of reasons. It’s a gateway to the river from the city, so we really liked this area. There is also this sort of circular natural zone (in the park) that everyone uses to approach the river and approach the park that was an ideal spot.
“The area doesn’t appear to have lots of activity, especially during events. It’s really just a gateway to the park going down to the band shell,” Kadoch said.
“At the center of the pocket park is the initial ‘seed’ of the project, which was to commemorate the three sister cities of Stevens Point,” Kadoch said. “And the Three Sister Cities group and Partner Cities got together and began formulating ideas to commemorate these relationships. “Soon thereafter we partnered with the Rotary Club (of Stevens Point), and it became a community-wide project with lots of strong interest, support and collaboration among many groups around town,” he said.
The Cultural Commons would be a space for different community organizations and groups to set up informational kiosks during festivals times
“It’s really a way to have the community and all its different cultural groups to have a ‘point of beginning,’ if you will, to introduce the heritage of that group,” Kadoch said. “Then from there be able to go off into the community and explore all the wonderful, amazing things that are happening in this town.”
Kadoch said the site also has some historical significance with the “point of beginning” catch phrase. That area is the Stevens’ point identified by George Stevens, who located a grocery and supply business on the Wisconsin River during the extensive logging of interior Wisconsin during the early 1800s.
The river was used by logging companies to float logs to the mill and the point of Stevens Point was used as a landmark for loggers, who found it a convenient stopping point, as the river bends slightly and the operation was from far upstream.
“So, we really see this as a point of beginning, a point of introduction at the most appropriate part of where Stevens Point began. Literally the point of Stevens Point,” Kadoch said.
Additionally, he said they plan to feature an outdoor classroom area. It would be open to the public for not only school’s use, but musicians who want to gather with friends, downtown workers who want to eat lunch outdoors or just as a meeting place for friends in the park.
“Between education, reflection, international relations, local community organizations and their connections, we hope for this to be a really interactive place,” Kadoch said.
For the construction of the pocket park, Kadoch said they want to use as much local resources as they can, both in material and in expertise.
“For example, the stone walls in Polonia. We’re pulling on our Polish heritage,” he said.
“We want to draw upon local, natural materials and cultural influences,” he said. “We really tried to draw on the heritage of our community for our materials and design influences.”