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Iola River Walk remains closed

Iola’s River Walk needs repair. Emily Conroy Photo

Repairs needed, solutions discussed

By Emily Conroy

The Community Development Authority (CDA) met March 25 to begin discussions on repairs to the Iola River Walk.

Repair timelines and the re-opening of the river walk are still in question, as solutions were discussed as how to best address the issues facing the trail.

The river walk was built in 2012 with funds received from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which gave just over $350,000 to the project, as well as donations from the community.

Clifford Mishler, who was president of Krause Publications through the nineties, was influential in the concept, securing donations and building of the river walk.

“We had a lot of cash flow if you will and trying to help the community and one of the ideas that had been floated around for a long time was the idea of some kind of a river walk and cleaning up the riverside along highway 161 coming in to town from the west,” Mishler said.

Mishler said through Krause Publications he began buying up vacant lots along the riverside, or getting them donated. He said there were a couple of exceptions where he had to get leases for the river walk land.

Mishler said the first two years he did not notice any kind of upheaval on the trail, however by the third and fourth years it had started and was progressively getting worse.

“A lot of people who use it are missing it, so at this point its not an asset for the community and we want it to be an asset for the community again,” Mishler said.

Jen Shustek, president of the Iola Village Board, said planning and repairs will need to be in stages.

“I mean this is going to be a process,” Schustek said. “We call it the roller coaster right now, this is probably the worst it’s ever been.”

Proposed solutions

A few solutions were proposed at the March meeting. Notably the concept of adding an anchor to each of the wood pylons to thwart the spring thaw damage and potential upheaval.

Another idea was using steel pans, which is a method that is used on the Ice Age Trail boardwalk and has had a lot of success, according to Phil Johnsrud, who was present at the meeting. He said he had called someone associated with the famous trail and they told him they had been using this method for years.

Then there was the idea of using timber locks which would help to stabilize the trail as well.
There is also the aspect of replacing boards that have rotted.

Glenn Tetzlaff, director of Iola Public Works, said he called the company that provided the wood planks to see if there was a warranty on them.

The company, out of Chippewa Falls, said the southern yellow pine boards do not have a long life expectancy and quoted him about $30,000 to replace all of the 230 boards that have issues.

Tetzlaff said in the meeting that the yellow pine boards are also not a normal size. The awkward size that makes it difficult to replace with a more common-sized board.

The CDA will reconvene at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the Iola Village Hall in order to discuss quotes and best options.

The river walk will remain closed as the committee continues to gather information on how to best repair the board walk.

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