Riverside Park reopens
Waupaca River’s angling treasure
By James Card
A recipe for fun is to take a class of first graders and give them a few hundred squirming rainbow trout. The play time only lasted for so long and then the kids were put to work planting trees.
On Tuesday, May 3, first graders from the Chain Exploration Center were among the first to see improvements made at Riverside Park by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources working with the city of Waupaca.
The first part of the field trip was a lecture by Kyle Kossel, a DNR fisheries technician. In the park shelter he gave an overview of what the project was all about.
“Our goal was to make it fishable for kids and other people. Right now it looks a little rough but it will be nice really soon,” he said.
From there, the first graders surrounded the DNR tanker truck that was loaded with thousands of trout to be dumped in local waters right before the state’s opening day of the trout fishing season.
In some locations, the truck can back in close enough to the stream and the trout can be sent into the stream via a piping system. On this rainy day, the muddy conditions and the re-seeded grass area prevented that so the fish were netted and dumped into plastic garbage cans and hauled down to the river one by one.
At the riverbank, children lined up and watched how the trout were released into the river. The fishery crew snatched up individual trout and the kids took turns holding them for a slippery second before releasing them to the wild waters of the Waupaca. The trout were approximately 10 inches long.
After the trout were stocked, the class moved over to the first horseshoe-shaped bend.
Logs along river’s bank
Kossel explained the man-made riffles and how oxygenated water helps the trout survive. He pointed out the underwater bank-side structures along the bends that are hideouts for the trout yet also funnels prey towards them. Also willow and ash logs were stabbed along the bank to create more habitat.
He pointed his wading stick that doubles as a depth gauge toward the far bank.
“Where you’re standing is where the river came over. The willows there came down and it washed away. We put all those rocks there to reinforce the bank to prevent erosion so that won’t happen in the future,” he said.
The first graders then helped plant a mix of swamp white oak, burr oak, hawthorn, birch, tamarack, sugar maples and chokecherry. The work was relatively easy as holes were pre-drilled with an ice auger.
They also helped spread a pollinator blend of native prairie grass and wildflower seeds composed of 57 different species. Eventually the area will be filled with prairie onions, cup plants, porcupine sedge, big bluestem and Joe Pye weed.
According to Andrew Whitman, the city’s parks and recreation director, the work at Riverside is mostly done. Mother Nature will take care of the rest. A couple benches need to be replaced. There are some ash trees slowly dying from emerald ash borer and they will be removed when the time comes.
Mulch and protective matting help the grass seeds take root and Whitman asks that visitors take care when walking around those spots.
Kossel pointed out that there are some dead black willows on the horseshoe peninsula (which is privately owned land) and if those were to fall into the river and impede the water flow, they would be cut and repositioned as natural structures for fish habitat.