‘Our Dream Park’ groundbreaking ceremony held at Washington Square Park

By Jalen Maki

Tomahawk Leader Editor

TOMAHAWK – A local group’s dream more than two years in the making took a huge step closer to coming true this week.

On Thursday, Oct. 19, a groundbreaking ceremony for “Our Dream Park” was held at Washington Square Park on N. 4th St. in Tomahawk.

The event was attended by members of the public, as well as representatives from numerous organizations involved with the project in a variety of capacities.

Christi Lobermeier, Cathy Schmit, Steve Kahle and Sue Hawkins spoke on behalf of Tomahawk Together and the Our Dream Park Committee, which have spearheaded the project in conjunction with the City of Tomahawk. Other committee members on hand included Patti Hilgendorf, Carlie Myers and Kathy Tobin. Committee member Kay Kissinger Wolf was attending a State Historical Society conference in La Crosse and was unable attend the groundbreaking ceremony.

Tomahawk Mayor Steve Taskay made remarks on behalf of the city, and Dan Schuller, representing the city’s Parks and Recreations Committee, addressed the crowd gathered in the gazebo.

Kahle also spoke on behalf of the Getty-Sue Foundation and noted a $1.5 million donation from the Bierman Family Foundation.

Hawkins introduced Julie Weber, President of The ARC of Lincoln County, on behalf of the Walter Ristau Memorial Fund, which contributed $30,000.00 early in the fundraising campaign.

Micah Cyrkus, a fifth grader at St. Mary’s School, represented local children with his comments.

Other groups in attendance included Tomahawk Middle School students, Hatchet Pride representatives and St. Mary’s School student ambassadors.

Dave Bethel and several Bethel Excavating crew members were on hand. The company brought equipment to the site and will donate the excavation work.

Park stakeholders Harley-Davidson, Hilgy’s Gas, Wurl-Feind-Ingman VFW Post 2687 Auxiliary and Tomahawk Pharmacy were also acknowledged during the ceremony.

After the speeches, attendees broke out the shovels to break ground on the new playground site.

A dream two-plus years in the making

The groundbreaking ceremony marked a major milestone in a process that began more than two years ago.

In June 2021, Tomahawk Together, a nonprofit organization that has worked to support families and youth in the community for 30-plus years, approached the City of Tomahawk with a dream of building a new, all-inclusive playground in Washington Square Park. The group’s idea was for the playground and its equipment to be accessible by children of all ages and abilities.

Meanwhile, an Outdoor Recreation Plan survey conducted by the city showed overwhelming community support for a local splash pad.

“The idea had been placed on a back burner, but when Tomahawk Together’s proposal was presented, the two dreams became one,” a joint release from Tomahawk Together and the City of Tomahawk said. “The projects melded, and a partnership was formed.”

Tomahawk Together began raising funds for the playground, and the city hired MSA Professional Services to pursue a rejuvenation of the city-center, square-block park, complete with a splash pad.

“Thanks to generous monetary and in-kind donations, large and small, local and beyond, from individuals, businesses, organizations and foundations, Tomahawk Together raised nearly $1.67 million, including a phenomenal $1.5 million gift from the Bierman Family Foundation and $30,000.00 from one of the Dream Park’s earliest supporters, the Walter Ristau Memorial Fund,” the release stated.

A large federal grant, written by MSA and finalized earlier this month, provided the final nod to proceed.

The release said that after researching longevity, safety, customer service and community support, Tomahawk Together began working with Wisconsin-based playground company Lee Recreation LLC. The city contracted with Vortex for the splash pad project.

Along with the playground, the park transformation will also include Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements, infrastructure, lighting, fencing, walkways, seating and a redesigned 5th St. for extra parking, according to the release.

The scope of the project will fit entirely within the current park footprint and will not disrupt the Tomahawk Area Historical Society’s log museum, the historic locomotive, the Tomahawk boat displays or the Tomahawk Regional Chamber of Commerce building.

The release said the summer flea market will be able to continue at its same location, and the park’s adjacent basketball hoops will be improved. The gazebo will remain, and changing rooms will be added to the current ADA-compliant bathroom facilities.

“One of the largest expenses with the project was the decision to go with a poured-in-place surface that will extend beneath the playground equipment,” the release stated. “It is an industry-standard that is designed deep below play apparatuses to soften any falls. The surface is also designed to be wheelchair accessible.”

Nearly half of the playground’s $760,000.00 price tag is directly tied to the base, something Tomahawk Together deemed crucial for all-inclusive usage.

Other planned amenities include a duo zip line, a serenity area, musical components, a multi-user swing and modular play structures for ages two to five and five to 12, as well as an adult fitness area.

The current playground equipment will be removed and repurposed as allowed at another park location, according to the release.

A major unknown associated with the site excavation involves the remains of the Washington School, which was demolished after a fire in 1978. Some playground equipment will be placed over buried remnants of the structure. The release said contingencies are in place to help address any related unanticipated problems.

Site preparation work done this fall will allow the ground to settle over the winter, helping final preparation and installation of equipment next spring.

A tentative park opening is anticipated around July 2024, according to the release.

Donations still being accepted

Donations of $100.00 or more to Our Dream Park will be memorialized within two-foot-by-two-foot engraved pavers along one of the park’s pathways. The engravings are an in-kind donation provided by Tim Haskin at Tomahawk Monument Company.

Engraved boulders will acknowledge donations of $25,000.00 or more.

Individuals or businesses interested in making a contribution to celebrate the new park, or to remember a family member or friend, can mail tax-deductible donations to Tomahawk Together, P.O. Box 653, Tomahawk, Wis., 54487.

Funds will be used for park enhancements that have already been identified as needed.

To learn more about Our Dream Park, visit the City of Tomahawk website at www.tinyurl.com/59t7ha32 or the Our Dream Park Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TomahawkTogether/. Donation forms can be obtained through the city’s website.

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