La Crosse Eco Park in ‘silent phase’ of expansion

More than 6,000 kids have visited the Eco Park in La Crosse every year since it opened, but even though it has been open since 2008, the park is far from completed.

The Myrick Hixon EcoPark is in a “silent phase” of it’s $4.4 million project, meaning they are talking to donors and looking towards the next fundraising opportunity. They want to build four playscapes that will highlight different ecosystems found in the area and hope to finish the project sooner rather than later.

The Myrick Hixon EcoPark isn’t quite at full potential.

“We have about a fourth of what the full project is,” Jean Chromey, executive director of the Eco Park, said.

When funding comes through and the project is finished, the Eco Park hopes to be able to show kids how lucky they are to live in the Coulee Region.

“Nature here is very plentiful and bountiful. We just have access to such wonderful things,” Chromey said.

The four playscapes will include wild water, which will show how water in the rivers and marsh act; a prairie maze, “an area that’s native grass, native to this area and there is a maze that works it way through the prairie,” Chromey said.

The forest scramble will let kids experience what it’s like to roam the trees and explore the forest floor. Lastly, a big red barn will host Farm Play.

“That area will teach kids how to grow and source their food locally rather than perhaps going to the grocery store and getting it from China or Chile or wherever it might come from. It really will teach kids what it takes to get food from a local area resource rather than a long distance,” Chromey said.

Chromey said construction of the playscapes will total $3.4 million and it will cost about $760,000 to fund operating costs. She said the project is worth it to get kids off the couch, away from computers and into nature.

“If we can teach them here in a controlled environment the things that it takes to be sustainable and live among the critters and the area that we have here we hope that they take that out into the forest and the marsh and the river, and use those skills that they’ve learned out here and beyond,” Chromey said.

Chromey hopes to have the project finished by June 2017. She said the park is looking at future fundraising options and will be kicking off a more public campaign at a later date.

The Ecopark reached a long term agreement with the City of La Crosse last May. They have an initial 10-year deal at their location with the possibility of two 10-year renewal options after that.