Talk of the Town: Make the “Dash” to Onalaska

A new hub in Onalaska

When you think of any hometown there is usually one place that everyone considers the heart of the city.
One well-known businessman and his family made it their mission to create that space right on the corner of their hometown’s Main Street for everyone to see and enjoy.

Festival Foods Chairman Dave Skogen could be considered an Onalaska ambassador of sorts.

Supplying jobs, generous donations and most recently this park, that he hopes will be a big boost for the downtown.

“That’s what this park is going to be,” says Skogen.

He named it DASH Park after a famous poem he lives by.

It refers to the dates on a headstone. That the beginning and end of life aren’t as important as all the things that happen in between or the dash.

“You know that line between birth and death? How we live and love and how we spend our dash,” is Skogen’s mantra.

The Skogen family’s DASH park hopes to give people a place to play, make memories and give the city a centerpiece.

Skogen points out, “Now with the landing across the street and the park this whole corridor has really gotten to be special!”

And could jumpstart more development according to Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilsen, “Because of the views. I mean you go up two or three stories and you get an awfully good view.”

Just across the street the Great River Landing was finished last year and is the the city’s gateway for the great outdoors.

As Chilsen looks out over the water he says, “Silent sports, we are really one of the top venues for silent sports.”

Something the city has worked on with the Mississippi Valley Conservancy for nearly 20 years.

“And that’s the beauty of thoughtful development,” according to Carol Abrahamzon, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

It’s their mission to preserve green space.

Abrahamzon understands there is a balance between progress and conservancy, “Development is necessary. But we want to have beautiful areas like this that are left untouched so the people who live around it can enjoy it as can the wildlife.”

And as part of Skogen’s thoughtful development, he included a restaurant at DASH park.

It even carries his name.

“I’ve been called David Reay for a long time. Reay is the doctor that delivered me in 1942,” says Skogen.

And when it comes to city development sometimes it is best to ask someone whose been part of it their whole life.

Skogen says, “I guess I would tell a new person you gotta check out that corner of Main and the highway!’

A new place to spend some of your “DASH.”