City recommends former Emerson school site to become park
By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — “Make Emerson a park, a whole park, and nothing but the park, so help you, God.” — Stevens Point Resident Rick Whipp to city alders
…and the alders did just that.
Officials moved forward on a motion to dedicate the former Emerson school site as park land, and to divert the matter to the planning commission for further action. City staff initially intended the 1.22 acre parcel to be used as a park after purchase, but never truly looked at all of their options, which was the case on Monday night.
Council members took comments from many in the audience urging the recent acquired property of the former Emerson School site to be turned into one large park. Some of these were from members of the the ‘Friends of Emerson Park’ Facebook page — a group that seeks to establish a neighborhood park on the site.
“We love being so close to the university — we’re able to walk to restaurants and shops, and most importantly, we can walk our son to activities,” said Danielle Weaver, who moved to the area with her family two years ago from downtown Chicago. “The one thing missing from this area is a park within a reasonable walking distance.”
The property itself has been used as a park in some fashion since 1892, and contains approximately eight schools within a mile of the vicinity. In 1983, the Stevens Point School District was changed into a unified district from a city district, and as a result, transferred all of the schools, forests, and future school sites to the school district. Emerson school building was used until 2001, until it was discovered that the building was no longer structurally sound. The school was razed in 2002. As of recent, the city has purchased back this plot of land.
According to the city, if approved, the park would incur additional costs with park upkeep and staffing. Director Schrader will be tasked with planning potential improvements to the property, as well as allocating funds efficiently from the city budget.
Alder Jeremy Slowinski put forth the idea of partial development inside of the park, which was seemingly shot down by other alders and residents in attendance. Slowinski pointed out that the area could use additional development to add residences in the area. He was one of two alders to vote against the measure.
“I didn’t say I didn’t want a park there, I just wanted to put a portion of it as developed,” said Slowinski. “I’m not anti-park, but I’m not going to support this motion for the fact that we have an opportunity here.”
“I’m totally in favor of this — I grew up by Iverson Park, and I know how wonderful it is to have a park near you,” said Alder Mary McComb. “But I also want to give a shout-out to Alder Slowinski for creative thinking and thinking of options; which is the kind of thinking I think we need in the city.”
Mayor Mike Wiza spoke in favor of turning the parcel into one large park, and addressed city alders as a citizen shortly after public comments.
“There have been mayors before me that have worked to bring the Emerson school site back into the city, and I’ve worked with three school superintendents to finally get this back into the city,” said Wiza. “I have made a commitment to have no more than a 10-minute walk to a park from any house in the city of Stevens Point. I, as a citizen, would ask you to dedicate this as park land.”
With alders Obserstadt and Shoor absent, the measure passed 7-2, with alders Phillips and Slowinski voting against.