Park improvements in Caledonia
Walking trail named after Webb Shaw
By Angie Landsverk
A walking trail, storage shed and restrooms are among the recent additions to Readfield Park, and more improvements are being planned.
“We’re marching right down the list,” said Bill Abba.
He is a member of the Caledonia Town Board and chairperson of the Caledonia Enrichment Committee (CEC).
The list Abba referred to is the town’s priorities in its Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP).
The town completed the long-range park development plan in 2017 with assistance from the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
The CEC was founded prior to that process taking place.
The late Webb Shaw was instrumental in the founding of that town committee.
He served on the town’s Planning Commission for a number of years.
Shaw recognized small communities have tight budgets and find it difficult to finance amenities through their tax levies.
“Webb was a long-term resident of the community. He was very community minded,” Abba said. “He chaired the citizen committee during the CORP process, to get the plan completed.”
Shaw passed away a few years ago and so, never saw the trail project completed.
“We decided in his memory, we would name the trail after Webb,” Abba said.
The Webb Shaw Memorial Walking Trail was a joint project between the New London School District and town of Caledonia.
Readfield Elementary is next to Caledonia’s town hall and Readfield Park.
The trail “circumnavigates the school and park,” Abba said.
The half-mile trail makes it easy for walkers and runners to calculate the distance they walk or run.
They simply keep track of how many laps they complete.
The trail also includes a smaller loop for the students.
“We’re seeing bikers, lots of walkers, kids walking, lots of adults,” Abba said. “We just completed it in the last month.”
Caledonia’s adoption of the CORP allowed it to seek a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) matching grant to construct the trail.
The budget for the project was $42,000, and no taxpayer dollars were used for it, Abba said.
A $21,000 matching DNR grant was received.
“The DNR liked the fact that it was an intergovernmental project,” Abba said.
The Waupaca County Highway Department was hired to build the trail.
Go-Green Quarry, a local quarry, donated about $5,000 worth of gravel screenings for the trail, he said.
Jerel’s Excavating did some of the work to prepare the site, Abba said.
The project also received $10,000 in funding through the county’s Greenway Commission, created to support trails throughout the county.
“We had it funded, but when the opportunity came to apply, we did,” he said. “In the end, this will be 75% funded by grants.”
Abba noted the Greenway Commission is also putting together a long-range plan about where it makes sense to develop other trails.
This could result in the possibility of more trail development in Caledonia.
Caledonia has three active subdivisions, and has experienced a lot of new growth in housing the last couple of years, Abba said.
As the Greenway Commission looks at its long-range plan, he pointed out an example of how creating more trails could benefit Caledonia.
Abba wonders if a trail could be created that gets residents from those subdivisions into “this part of the community” in Readfield.
The town is looking for other opportunities and does not want to see children and adults walking and biking on Caledonia’s busy roads – many dominated by truck traffic.
There are three quarries in the area, as well as a cooperative and other businesses.
Having an elementary school in the town is an important aspect for those who live in those subdivisions, Abba said.
He said remodeling and updates took place at Readfield Elementary over the summer.
It shows the school district’s commitment, he said.
Both the district and town want to make Readfield an attractive place.
Before Caledonia had the trail built this year, it completed several other projects.
The first one the CEC initiated was the outdoor restrooms.
Finalized in 2017, it was funded 100% by community donations.
Abba explained why that project was first on the list.
The park used to have portable toilets.
Town officials heard from parents that their children did not want to use them.
“The strategy is all about seeking grants, getting donations, working with partners, using no tax dollars,” Abba said.
In the case of this first project, the Medina, Dale, Readfield Lions (MDR Lions) partnered with the town and provided all the labor for it, as well as much of the materials.
“We couldn’t have done it without the MDR Lions,” Abba said, noting Watters Plumbing and Allen Electric also donated portions of materials for the project.
This year also saw the parking lot redone and striped.
“We did it in conjuction with the New London School District because it is their driveway coming in,” Abba said. “All the asphalt in the whole area was done cooperatively with the district.”
The work was done with tax dollars.
The town also used tax dollars to purchase a backup generator for the hall, wanting the space to be more available to the community as a resource, particularly during power outages.
The final project completed this year was a storage shed.
The 30-by-40-foot shed has five sections in it.
The three smaller spaces are for the local 4-H club, the Medina, Dale Readfield Baseball Club and Friends of Readfield Parks to store their materials.
Abba said the middle section is storage space for the town, and the last space is for the MDR Lions.
“They built it as a donation to the town,” he said of the Lions Club.
In addition, Rawhide is in the process of building a total of 10 new picnic tables for the park.
Caledonia is an agriculturally based town.
The town’s idea is to cover most of the cost of its park projects with grants and donations.
Friends of Readfield Park is the fundraising arm for these projects.
The nonprofit was created after the CORP was adopted.
On the top of the list for 2021 is playground improvements, Abba said.
In January, town officials will begin the grant writing process to seek funds for them.
Their plan is to remove and replace the two sandboxes, and also remove the older playground pieces, which are the swings, merry go round and slide.
The teeter totter will be relocated.
“The piece in the center will remain,” Abba said.
The playground area will be expanded and will include a handicap accessible layout and materials.
The current estimate for the project is $55,000.
Abba explained why this is one of the next priorities in the park.
During the summer, the MDR Baseball Club has weekly games at the park.
“The whole family comes, so we need things for the other children to do,” he said.
Abba said the playground project will also include obstacle courses for adults and children.
There will be a series of six or seven different stations, and then everyone will hop back on the walking trail.
Readfield Park is located in the southeast part of Caledonia.
Once projects are completed here, the town wants to create a space on the north end of the town.
It will be completely different, he said.
“We intend to do the same approach,” Abba said. “We need 15 acres. We hope it’s donated. We will apply for grants, get donations.”
Caledonia’s conservative estimate is that the value of completed projects thus far is about $165,000.
Town officials say it is only the beginning and started primarily because of Shaw’s vision.