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Documenters: Parks and rec discusses nativity, dog park and dioxins

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By Owen Reissmann for Wausau Pilot and Review

Monday evening the Wausau Park and Recreation committee met and discussed a request for a nativity at The 400 Block, a dog park committee and concerns over dioxins in the soil at Riverside Park.

A request from October for a nativity display on The 400 Block stage brought to light some vagueness in city park rental policy. Park and Recreation Director Jamie Polley noted that there is not currently policy in place to limit the number of consecutive days allowed for parks to be rented for events at the set $250 multi-day charge. She suggested capping the number of consecutive rentals at seven days. Thus, for longer periods it would be necessary to pay that fee twice.

In addition, no limit is currently in place for number of yearly occurrences for serial events per entity per year. Polley suggested setting a limit of 15. In addressing these items, officials looked closely at regulations in the city of Racine because they have a monument park that is similar to The 400 Block.

Polley explained to resident James Straub, who made the initial inquiry, that the policy on file is for events, not displays.

Committee member Dennis Smith expressed concern about allowing a nativity scene, which could lead to the need to allow other religious or anti-religious displays. Also mentioned were advertisements, including political ads, that might need to be considered.

Motions were passed to move ahead with Polley’s suggestions, amend wording to specify that the city allowing something does not constitute sponsorship of the activity, and forbid unattended static displays in parks.

A dog park for Wausau has been the topic of discussion for months, and the committee on Monday decided to form a subcommittee to seek public funding for such a project. Committee member Tom Neal volunteered to join the effort. The city already has a site, design, plans, and projections for amenities. Mayor Mielke voiced his support and said he would try to help get some of the funding from city resources. Committee members must be Wausau residents.

Next, Wausau resident Tom Kilian asked that further testing be done in reference to high dioxin levels at Riverside Park. Kilian presented several documents to support his concern about contamination from nearby manufacturing sites, both past and present. One diagram showed that toxic waste for years was stored in close proximity to the park and current culvert area. Kilian is asking for the full council to review the materials at the group’s next meeting.

Neal expressed his support for testing and remediation. Chair Peckham remarked that toxicology testing was already performed beneath the culvert emptying into the park, where levels may likely be highest, and reminded Kilian that the state toxicologist’s report had said that it was safe to spend significant time at the park. However, he ultimately acknowledged that further testing may be in order, involving multiple sample areas.

Editor’s note: The Wausau Pilot and Review Documenters program is made possible through individual donations and grants from several organizations including the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin. The program aims to democratize news and information at the local level through a group of local contributors.

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