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Sanitary system update sought for Lake Altoona County Park

Sunday, October 8, 2017
Elizabeth Dohms | Leader-Telegram

Replacing an outdated and sometimes overworked sanitary system at Lake Altoona County Park would likely be the first step in a long-range plan to reconfigure the popular Eau Claire County destination.

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Part of a master plan that gives no definite timeline for implementing changes, overhauling the septic, sewer and water system would cost almost $1 million, according to the county's proposed five-year capital projects plan.

The cost to bring the master plan to completion is estimated at $10 million and includes updates such as expanding the beachfront to provide more space for entertainment, installing more pavilions, providing easier access to updated bathrooms and adjusting parking lot configurations.

No longer included in the plan is a splash pad and concessions building after feedback showed little community support for them. Elimination of those features saves almost $2 million.

During its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, the full Eau Claire County Board will receive an update of the master plan commissioned by the board's Parks and Forest Committee and completed last year.

Changes to the park would be made in three phases. Eau Claire County Supervisor Pat LaVelle, who is chairman of the committee, said it wouldn't make sense to continue with park updates before upgrading that system.

LaVelle said some of the project's costs could be paid for through grants. Such plans require master plans to be in place, which helped necessitate the committee's push for one for the park, he said.

"The utilities of the project need to be figured out first," he said. "They need to be built up to handle the possible changes that could occur in the park."

The septic system already fails on occasion, especially during high traffic events and holidays such as July 4, said Josh Pedersen, director of the Eau Claire County Parks and Forest Department. 

Parking project

While the parking lot adjacent to the boat landing on the west side of the park was redone about three years ago, the other main lot on the east side of the park is in need of repair. 

But any changes to that parking lot will mean the county is no longer insulated from regulations for runoff put in place after the lot was first installed. 

"We've got to go by all the rules and regulations of water runoff that might not have existed when the parking lot was installed more than 50 years ago," LaVelle said.

"When we change the parking lot down there, we lose a lot of spots with regulations being there," he said. 

That's in part because retention ponds will likely need to be placed nearby to collect storm water.

The parking lots currently offer 210 stalls. Future development includes an addition of 70 stalls on the west side, 58 on-street stalls and 46 more stalls to the east. 

If more parking stalls are needed, the county could buy property to the east and fit 147 stalls there. All told, the number of parking spots would almost double the amount currently available.

If even more parking is needed, the county could redevelop wooded land at the intersection of South Beach Drive and Park Road near the walking path. 

Pedersen noted that reducing the amount of parking near the beach would allow for beachfront expansion.

"The parking here is right on top of the lake so it takes away the prime real estate for people to have recreation opportunities," he said.

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

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