La Crosse neighborhood residents insist on including new Weigent Park shelter in budget

Weigant Park
(City of La Crosse website)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Building a new shelter for Weigent Park garnered most of the attention during a public hearing Monday on the city of La Crosse’s Capital Improvement Plan for the next five years.
Several residents at the hearing lobbied hard for a new shelter at the park at 1400 Cass St. Neighborhood groups have raised money to chip in and expected the city to budget $200,000 in the five-year plan at least as a show of good faith, they noted.
But the capital improvements listed in the proposed $5.54 million for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department don’t include Weigent Park among a host of projects in other parks. That total breaks down to $2.99 million from city funds and $2.38 million in new borrowing.
The hearing was a hybrid of in-person speakers at the Southside Neighborhood Center and others online and via phone.
Shelter plans hit snags when bids came in too high, speakers acknowledged. But they insisted that continuing to postpone building the project is unacceptable.
The park’s popularity and heavy use demonstrate the need for the structure, they contended. Weigent features baseball/softball field, bike racks, bleachers, a memorial, a playground with a swing set, a tennis court and recreation department programs.
Replacing the current shelter is important not only for Weigent-Hogan Neighborhood residents but also for residents throughout the city, as well as to burnish the city’s image for tourists, several said.
A resident who is involved with historical projects and tourism told of a riverboat visitor who sarcastically asked whether the shelter is “early Appalachian.”
The lack of an open shelter with toilet facilities other than portable toilets are serious drawbacks for a very heavily used park, several speakers said.
A man told of taking visiting grandchildren to the park recently, when his 3-year-old granddaughter was so preoccupied with playing that she had an “accident.” He was faced with a crying granddaughter to take home with moist pants.
Jokingly, he noted that even he might have to go to counseling because of the trauma from the mishap.
The full 2022 Capital Improvement Plan is on the city’s website.