Despite threatening weather, the community turned out the morning of Sept. 10 to dedicate Waupaca’s new Eco-Park — a partnership including CAP Services, the City of Waupaca, the Waupaca Foundry and other businesses, with funding from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership and Environmental Sustainability Fund at the Community Foundation and the Waupaca Area Community Foundation.
The Basic Needs Giving Partnership includes funding from the U.S. Venture Open golf outing, the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J. J. Keller Foundation and other partners.
From the off-grid, solar-powered classroom building to the cute bug-like log playground structure, the Eco Park is the work of Fresh Start students. The CAP Services program offers a new chance for students at risk of dropping out of high school or those who have had run-ins with the law. The program has achieved success rates for graduation as high as 70%. The construction uses locally sourced or recycled materials, like the reclaimed cedar siding and the Waupaca Foundry sand used as fill. The foundry also donated a working model of the foundry process, which is mounted onto the exterior of the classroom building.
“We wanted to create a playground that transformed the community and transformed the people involved,” Mary Patoka, CAP Services CEO, said.
After comments from the city Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jensen, Mayor Brian Smith and representatives of Waupaca Foundry, Faulk Brothers Construction and North Wind Renewable Energy, Eco Park supporters took park in a ceremonial tree planting and ribbon cutting for an amphitheater for environmental presentations and other community projects. The theater, still in the works, was dedicated to Connie Abert, a UW-Extension youth program worker who suffered serious injuries in a traffic accident.
The journey is the education at the Eco Park. Clif Morton, project coordinator, said manual labor replaced heavy use of equipment for students stripping, cutting and shaping logs into benches in the amphitheater, moving a 500-pound rock by hand or creating a floor out of the ends of scrap 2X4 boards.