Florence Bark Park Nears Completion

June 15, 2015

Wendy Gehlhoff

press release

Florence, WI….. On a sunny day during the last week of school, several students from the Florence High School TORPEDOS group delivered the sign and bench they designed and manufactured for the new Florence Bark Park located at the Visitor Center on the corner of US 2 and Hwy 70. They also worked several hours picking up sticks, removing metal ties from the used fencing and trimmed trees in preparation for the final landscaping.

The idea for this project came from a 2009 NWTC Service Learning Project aimed at increasing tourism market opportunities for Florence County. Dog Park’s were identified as a low cost way to get people to stop in our community to explore and patronize our local businesses. There are several nation-wide websites that map out dog parks for travelers. With US 2 passing through Florence on its route from coast to coast, we are a strategically located Dog Park spot. The visitor center also offers travelers a hiking trail, large parking lot, restrooms and a gift shop open Monday through Saturday. In addition, local residents also expressed excitement about a safe, fenced location where their dogs can run.

The project stalled due to the high cost to purchase new fencing estimated at $12,000. So when project facilitator Wendy Gehlhoff, Florence County Economic Development Director learned about a possible source of used fencing last fall, the work began. Wendy contacted Meg Dallapiazza, UW-Extension Youth Development Agent, to see if her TORPEDO group would be interested in naming the park, researching rules, creating signage and building a bench. Several students signed up for the project and worked diligently on the components. This was a great project for the students to learn how to work together not only amongst themselves, but with other agencies and across the generations. From a youth development standpoint it was ideal, research says that it is important for young people to not only give back to their communities, they should also have the opportunity to master skills and make independent choices. Dallapiazza says, “I simply shared the goals and the young people took it from there.” Max Walker, Jaden Streu, and Gina Gehlhoff had a great time hunting down resources for their recycled art project, then went to work on creating and manufacturing the metal sign. The bench design was researched by Kevin Young, Max Walker and Tyler Beck. Sydnee Brunette, Shelby Brunette and Tyler Beck worked on outlining the regulations and designing a sign for them. And doing some final site prep work were, Hallie Mullen, Cassie Dumke, Gina Gehlhoff, Jaden Streu and Max Walker. They have additional dog art they would like to add next fall along with more fence signage.

In the meantime, Gehlhoff worked through the remaining pieces of the project. Visitor center building partners, Pat Smith, County Forestry & Parks administrator and Lori Moore, Visitor Center director, were consulted regarding park placement and the ATC easement permit. Steve Rydzich owner of Statewide fencing was consulted re fence layout, gating and helping keep costs low by finding used fencing and other materials. The project would not have happened without his generous support. Florence Utilities also assisted with grounding the fence as required by ATC. A local sign company, Xcell Graphix, produced the highway signs for the dog park and the new RV Dump Station located right next to the dog park. These icon signs will be hung once the newly seeded grass grows and the park is open. This project is one more example of local groups and departments working together to improve our community for our residents and visitors. The new Florence Bark Park should officially open by July 4th.

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