Park equipment found in Eau Claire parks is usually designed for younger generations, but Marilyn Skrivseth said it’s about time that the city is getting some for seniors as well.
The City Council agreed with the Eau Claire resident on Tuesday when it voted 8-0 — with members Emily Berge and Emily Anderson absent — to approve plans for “active-aging” amenities in McDonough Park, 800 Centre St.
“It’s a perfect product for a really good location in Eau Claire,” Councilwoman Jill Christopherson said.
The council’s representative for the city’s west side said a citizens group and city staff worked together to “come up with something really spectacular.”
The plans include new paths, fitness equipment, scenic overlooks, bocce ball courts, half-court basketball, more parking and restroom facilities.
The Chippewa Valley Pickleball Club has spearheaded the push to make the park a place where seniors can exercise and gather around its growing sport and other activities.
During Monday night’s public hearing, club President Skrivseth said adding active aging features to McDonough would catch Eau Claire up to other communities that have parks with features for seniors.
“I am so excited for this,” she said. “We are so behind the times not having an active aging park in Eau Claire.”
She noted that many parks in Europe have features intended for people of all ages, while many of the amenities at Eau Claire parks had been primarily aimed at children and young families.
Todd Chwala, the city’s parks, forestry and cemetery manager, said several of the improvements in the plans will be made this year at McDonough but others will depend on fundraising progress.
Low-impact fitness equipment and bocce ball courts also are likely to be installed this year, he said.
The roadway in the park will be extended this summer to a parking lot that will be built east of the pickleball courts.
Asphalt pickleball courts there are slated to undergo coloring and conditioning this summer to improve their surface, Chwala said.
Improving views along the bluff overlooking Dells Pond will likely be done after Labor Day, Chwala said, after city forestry workers get most of their summer projects finished.
Skrivseth said the fitness equipment will help seniors improve their strength and range of motion. The addition of courts for playing bocce ball — a lawn game that can be played by people of all ages and abilities — is another feature Skrivseth is excited for. A looping network of trails planned for the park also provides a place for seniors to walk.
Additions to the park would be paid through fundraising and grants while the city will handle installation, per an agreement signed with the club.
In August, the city accepted a $20,000 grant from Mayo Clinic Health System towards active aging amenities at the park.
Grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also may be able to help with improvements to the park, Chwala said.
In addition to providing more recreation and socialization to all city residents, Councilman David Strobel said improvements to the park could have the side effect of boosting the surrounding neighborhood along Birch Street.
Strobel noted seeing a similar phenomenon in his own neighborhood, the East Side Hill, after the city made improvements to Boyd Park.