Thursday, August 16, 2018

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Group wants Eau Claire park geared toward active seniors

Pickleball courts added in recent years lay the foundation for other amenities planned for McDonough

  • sk-Pickleball-13-051814-15945649-2514

    Pickleball courts were built in recent years at McDonough Park. A pickleball club is proposing other amenities and activities that cater to active seniors at the near north side park.

    Staff file photo

  • Jeff-Pippenger

    Pippenger

    File photo

A park on Eau Claire’s near north side would be home to senior-friendly amenities and new programs to get residents more engaged in physical and mental activity if a proposal made by a local club goes as planned.

Low-impact apparatuses and organized games such as table tennis and kubb would be available at McDonough Park, according to a proposal put forward by the Chippewa Valley Pickleball Club.

The active aging park would be the first of its kind in the city, said Jeff Pippenger, city community services director.

“We’re excited for this,” Pippenger said. “We don’t have that in any other park that has specifically some apparatus for some of us who are seasoned.”

While a timeline hasn’t been set for the project, Pippenger is hoping to bring forward a fleshed-out plan to the City Council on May 8. He said funding for the project wouldn’t come from the city.

Instead, its success depends on whether enough funds can be raised, said Marilyn Skrivseth, president of the pickleball club and UW-Eau Claire kinesiology and athletics professor emeritus.

“It’ll take contributions from individuals and businesses to make it happen,” she said.

The city is hoping the active aging park can be helped by grants such as one for $25,000 from the Royal Credit Union Foundation.

During its meeting Tuesday, city staff will ask for the Eau Claire City Council’s approval to submit a grant request to the foundation in support of the active senior park.

Skrivseth said keeping seniors active can help reduce chances for dementia and accidents such as falls and can stave off isolation and depression. That could be done through organized games such as bocce ball, Tai Chi, croquet, chess or card games. 

“McDonough Park will soon be known as the place for fun, fitness and friendships and where limiting self-imposed and externally-imposed stereotypes on aging get shattered,” she said.

Skrivseth also wants to see this space used for teaching skills such as administering CPR and AED, proper stretching and getting up from falls. She’d like the site to be used for screenings, too, such as for blood pressure, balance and hearing.

“I think we can make this a vibrant park that’s fun and engaging and offers education,” she said.

McDonough Park was chosen because of the pickleball courts already on-site. That sport has gained popularity in recent years, especially among the senior population. Skrivseth said the motto of the park will be, “You are not too old and it’s not too late.”

“Too many people have long been marginalized and overlooked when it comes to accessible fitness options,” she said. “This changes in our Eau Claire with our first dedicated active aging fitness park.”

Anyone interested in donating to the project can send donations to: Community Parks Association, Active Aging Fitness Park at McDonough, P.O. Box 741, Eau Claire, WI 54702-0741. 

Other business

• The council will vote on whether all staff at City Hall, about 90 people, will move to the former 3M/​W.L. Gore building on the city’s northwest side for a year. 

That will clear the way for crews to complete renovations at City Hall, which is comprised of the former Carnegie Library built in 1903, the former City Hall built in 1916 and a building that links them together.

While original plans called for renovating one building a year before the other, city documents show the cost savings to do both buildings at once offsets the cost of rent. The cost is about $260,000 for the city to rent the temporary space for a year.

Three potential sites were considered in the search process. Those were Wipfli, which is near Oakwood Mall, the former jail on the top floor of the Eau Claire County Courthouse and the former 3M building.

Needed improvements and lack of parking made the jail space undesirable, despite it being near downtown. Limited lease terms and high rent made the city turn away from Wipfli as an option.

The council will vote Tuesday whether to send staff to the 3M building in July.

• The city will buy three transit buses for $1.7 million to replace three 18-year-old buses bought in 2002. The aging buses have more than 600,000 miles on them. 

Two grants from the state Department of Transportation and a potential one from the Federal Transit Administration would pay for the buses. 

The old buses will be sold in an auction after the new buses are put in circulation. The new buses are expected to be delivered in October 2019. 

Contact: 715-833-9206, elizabeth.dohms@ecpc.com, @EDohms_LT on Twitter


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