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home : news : news Wednesday, June 29, 2016

8/21/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Grand opening planned Sept. 29 for Rock Creek eco center

By Jeremy Huss
Staff writer

A grand opening ceremony for the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center at Rock Creek Park is planned for 1-5 p.m., Sept. 29, in conjunction with the completion of a wetlands display that will serve as the centerpiece for the facility's nature center.

The event is being planned by the Clinton County Conservation Foundation, a non-profit entity that supports the goals of the government-supported Clinton County Conservation Board (CCCB).

CCCB members discussed plans for the ceremony at their Aug. 13 meeting.

CCCB director Walt Wickham said he has been frustrated by delays in completing the wetlands display for the eco center but has been assured the work will be finished by mid-September to allow some lead time before the grand opening.

Approximately 170 donors who raised funding for the $1.7 million eco center will be invited to the ceremony, and the event also will be open to the general public.

CCCB member Jim Haring said he is serving on a committee appointed by the conservation foundation to plan the event. A meeting was scheduled later in the week.

Board members discussed providing snacks as well as scheduling activities for the grand opening that could include an aquarium cleaning, river cruise, canoeing and kayaking and educational presentations.

Grant application rejected

CCCB will revamp plans for a wheelchair-accessible cabin at Rock Creek Park after a gaming grant application was rejected due to a math error.

Wickham said the Clinton County Development Association rejected the application because of last-minute changes that revised the costs on one page of the application but failed to include the revised numbers on the budget page.

CCCB will have to wait another year before it can apply again for the grant.

"It just makes my stomach turn to think about it," Wickham said.

However, Wickham said the development may be a blessing in disguise since it will give CCCB more time to research cabin design and costs.

Gary McDermott, a wheelchair user who has been assisting Clinton County in bringing facilities into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), was present for the discussion and offered assistance in designing a cabin and recruiting volunteer labor to build it.

McDermott said he regularly camps at parks in Wisconsin that provide handicapped-only cabins constructed and maintained by volunteers.

Wickham and board members said they favor the idea of allowing handicapped individuals first priority to reserve the cabin rather than establishing a handicapped-only cabin due to concerns it would sit empty.

Wickham said the proposal to build a new cabin resulted from a demand from the general public for a larger, higher-quality cabin. A handicapped-accessible cabin was considered after an audit of county facilities found the existing cabins don't meet ADA requirements and would be too expensive to modify, he said.

Wickham said CCCB already has $10,000 in insurance money to put toward the project after a tree fell on a cabin at Rock Creek Park in June and will receive another $4,000 from its insurer when the new cabin is built.

CCCB will continue to work on cabin design and look at additional funding options, Wickham said.

Deed request dropped

An individual who had asked CCCB to sign a quit claim deed for property adjoining the Ben Martinsen Wildlife Area has dropped the request after speaking with the county attorney, Wickham said.

The landowner had asked CCCB to sign the document in relation to a property line dispute with another neighbor.

"As it stands now, it's a dead issue," Wickham said.

The board discussed surveying the property due to a discrepancy over property boundaries resulting from two separate surveys.

It is believed the discrepancies resulted from one surveyor going off of the old Wapsi River channel and another from the new channel.

The difference in the surveys is 1-2 acres, according to natural resource technician Darin Voss.

The consensus of the board was to take no action because the survey would cost more than the value of the land in question.

Gas pumps to be removed

Gas pumps at Rock Creek Park will be removed because CCCB cannot justify the cost required to resume gasoline sales.

Wickham said CCCB was able to negotiate down the price of replacement pumps to the $10,000-12,000 range, but the law requires an attendant pump the gas, and the department can't afford to dedicate a staff member based on the small amount of gas it sells.

"The highest we ever made above cost for the gas was $1,000 in a year," Wickham said.

The gas pumps will be replaced with canoe and kayak racks, which will improve safety since students will no longer have to cross the road to access the boats, he said.

Board denies dock refund request

The board reached consensus to deny a request from Steve Shaff for a boat dock rental refund.

Wickham advised against authorizing the refund but said he had agreed to bring the request to the board. Shaff requested part or all of the dock rental fee be applied to next year's payment because flooding prevented him from using the dock for most of the summer.

Shaff, who is a teacher, said he will be unable to use the docks for the rest of the summer because of his work schedule.

Board members agreed they did not want to set a precedent by approving the refund and said they have no control over the weather or an individual's work schedule.

"It'd be hard to stay in business if you're refunding every time it floods," Wickham said.

Smithtown church

CCCB and representatives of the Clinton County Historic Preservation Commission are looking for someone to paint the exterior of the Smithtown Church near Lost Nation after failing to receive any bids for the project.

A request for bids was advertised in local newspapers, and bids were due Aug. 13.

Wickham said the preservation commission is anxious to have the work completed, and he will contact representative Ruth Wilson regarding leads on someone to do the work.

Although the commission maintains the historical church, the property technically is under the jurisdiction of CCCB.

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