Powers Bluff Campaign to Expand Outdoor Recreation

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Long-Range Plan Aims to Protect Natural and Cultural Areas

Powers Bluff County Park is known for its tubing in the wintertime and other outdoor activities. In the future, it will be able to offer even more.

[Information about current facilities and recreation at Powers Bluff can be found here.]

Currently, the Wood County Park and Forestry Department is undergoing a $4.56 million dollar capital campaign to expand and improve recreation at the park. The funding comes from a mixture of DNR grants, the county, businesses, public and private foundations, and private donations.

Proposed improvements include snow-making equipment and ski/tube hill lights to allow use after dark; a free-use ice skating rink, 3-acre fishing pond, groomed sledding hill to provide a safer option for small children, and playground; transportation of the maintenance building, improved parking, trail development, and a new multi-use shelter building.

Currently, about $4,400 has been raised through donations. The park was not selected for state and federal grants last year, but plans to reapply in May and will find out if selected for these grants in the fall.

Despite not receiving the grant this year, the park is still on schedule for a two-year fundraising campaign that will see completion in 2019 as long as this year’s grant application is approved and the project continues to see community support.

The proposed improvements stem from a 2005 Master Plan which was the work of the Friends of Powers Bluff, Ho-Chunk Nation, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Wood County Parks and Forestry Committee, and a few members of the public. The plan was a long-range vision that aimed to preserve and protect the park for future generations.

A land trade in 2012 allowed the park to acquire 223 acres of land north of the park at no cost, creating space for updates while protecting the existing cultural and environmental areas. The property used to be an old farmstead and is not a state historical area.

“That was really the reason that the purchase to the north occurred and was a part of this plan: to preserve the cultural and natural areas of the park,” said Chad Schooley, Wood County Parks and Forestry Director. “All of the development will be on the new property to the north.”

Parts of the 160-acre section of the park will also be returned to a more natural state. Once the maintenance shed is moved, the blacktop underneath will be removed. The woodshed and salt sheds would also undergo the same treatment. The current shelter building will remain and perhaps be used for environmental education.

A 5-year update in 2011 revealed that winter sports were very important to park users due to the terrain. Powers Bluff is the highest point in Wood County, making it ideal for recreation. Powers Bluff is known for its tubing facilities, downhill and cross-country skiing, and snowboarding in the wintertime.

Given its location outside of larger cities, some may not be aware of these fun activities. “It’s surprising how many people come out for the first time and didn’t even know we had a tubing/skiing hill in Wood County,” said Schooley.

The snow-making equipment that is part of the fundraising campaign would extend the time that winter recreation like tubing is available. Currently, the tubing facilities at Powers Bluff have not yet opened due to lack of enough snow. The equipment, however, would remedy dependence on weather.

“It’s really going to become an outdoor recreation hub year-round, not just when we have sufficient snow,” said Schooley. “Right now, we’re totally weather-dependent.”

Trails would undergo a signage improvement and the cross-country ski trail would be developed more. Development of the trail system is in the design phase, and the department is working with the IMBA on a conceptual plan for single-track biking, an outdoor activity on the rise.

There would be a cost for single-track biking and use of ski trails, but the hiking trails, fishing, sledding, open space activities, shelter atrium (during unreserved times), picnic areas, and exploring would all be free for the public.

The $3.1 million dollar multipurpose shelter, designed by architectural firm Design Unlimited, is the most expensive upgrade but will fill many useful purposes.

The nearly 13,000 square foot shelter will house a 300-person event hall for weddings, reunions, and sporting events. A 70-person meeting room will be used for business meetings, winter parties, and especially environmental education.

“We would like to work with the Wood County high schools, junior high schools, and elementary schools that are interested in the natural history of the park,” said Schooley. As the highest point in Wood County, Powers Bluff offers opportunities to learn more about glacial and Native American cultural history, and plant species.

Powers Bluff will imitate other tubing locations by adding a warming room with a concessions area. Winter rentals, which currently include ski and snowboards, may expand to skis and ice skates. Additional features include a first aid room, restrooms, outdoor patio space, and a partial kitchen with plenty of counter space and outlets for catering purposes.

To help improve the opportunities at the park, donations can be made via the form found here.

Social media recognition will be given to donors contributing $100 or more, and a plaque for donations of $1000 or more for the multi-use shelter building. Additionally, pop-up fundraising opportunities will be held throughout the year. Details will be posted to the Powers Bluff Facebook page as these occur.

Funded With Grants/Donations

Project Cost Entrance Road/Parking Lot: $824,000
Multi-use Shelter Construction: $3,100,000
Snowmaking Equipment: $350,000
Ski/Tube Hill Lights: $75,000
Subtotal: $4,349,000

Funded By Wood County

Trail Development: $5,000
Playground Equipment: $50,000
Ice Skating Rink: $5,000
Sledding Hill: $2,000
Maintenance Building: $125,000
Three (3) Acre Fishing Pond: $30,000
Subtotal: $217,000
Grand Total $4,566,000

Wood County Parks & Forestry Department
111 W. Jackson Street
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54495