Eco-park starts classes
Children’s program offered
By Angie Landsverk
Waupaca’s Parks and Recreation Department is ready to start holding programs at Waupaca Eco-Park.
The first one is a six-week program for children.
“Enhancing Environmental Knowledge” begins in September and will be taught by program leader Blair Hill.
“Each week will be a different topic,” said Hill, who is a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate with a degree in wildlife education.
The topics are biomes, plants, birds, amphibians, macro-invertebrates and tracking.
The lessons are meant to expand and grow off each other, he said.
The park’s environmental education center is going to be the home base for the classes.
Waupaca Eco-Park is located at 1534 Webster Way, near the East Gate Subdivision.
The park is on city-owned property and also includes an open-air shelter, amphitheater and natural children’s playground, all built from locally sourced, natural materials.
The park is visible from the State Highway 54/22 bypass.
Hill plans to use various parts of the park for the program, including the nearby Waupaca river and its marshy area, as well as the prairie and forested areas.
The program is scheduled for three different weekdays for three different age groups.
Kindergartners and first graders will meet from 4-5 p.m. Mondays, Sept. 11 to Oct. 16.
Second and third graders will meet from 4-5 p.m. Tuesdays, Sept. 12 to Oct. 17.
Third and fourth graders will meet from 4-5 p.m. Wednesdays, Sept. 13 to Oct. 18.
The fee is $25 for residents, with registration open until Friday, Sept. 8.
Families may visit www.waupacaactive.net to register online.
A computer is available at Waupaca Recreation Center for those who do not have computer access at home, or who have questions about how to register online.
Hill, who is a part-time parks and rec employee, wants the program to be hands-on for the students.
Giving children hands-on experiences in science and natural resources at a young age is important, he said.
That helps fuel their interest in science, which is “vital to the future of this community and the country as a whole,” Hill said.
Hill was part of a UW-Stevens Point class that visited the park last semester to give the Parks and Recreation Department program ideas for the park.
The eco-park project began in 2015.
It involved crews from CAP Services’ Fresh Start Program.
That program takes disadvantaged, at-risk, drop-out youth and young people who have been in trouble with the law and teaches them construction, life and employability skills, while also helping them complete educational goals.
Years earlier, Fresh Start crews began building homes in the nearby East Gate Subdivision.
Aaron Jenson, Waupaca’s parks and recreation director, said CAP Services was initially supposed to be done with the park project by July 1.
“They wanted to extend two of their supervisors’ time to make sure they finished some of the main components,” he said.
Jenson said additional assistance was needed, and Rawhide came on board to help.
Over the last month and a half, someone from Rawhide worked at the park at least once a week, focusing on the amphitheater and on building a swing set, Jenson said.
In October, the purpose of the eco-park and process for reserving its education center and amphitheater will be topics of discussion for the Parks and Recreation Board.
Jenson said the education center will be the department’s first indoor, insulated space.
“That opens up opportunities,” he said.
This fall, Jenson will also begin reaching out to area science teachers about how the park fits into their curriculums and could be a field trip destination.
He will begin with Waupaca’s school district.
Hill said he is able to create lesson kits for teachers.
In addition, Jenson wants students to be participants in deciding what direction to take the park.
“There are various projects that could be a permanent part of the park,” he said. “I think it would be kind of neat for kids to learn and also have a hand in it. They could show their parents how they contributed to something in the community. It’s an opportunity we think may exist.”