First Look at Cannery Park Designs

Jan. 26—EAU CLAIRE — A partially built playground on the hillside, a skating area that can be used in winter and warm weather, and riverside promenades are among the features being considered for a city park in the Cannery district of Eau Claire.

At its 7 p.m. meeting tonight, the Eau Claire Waterways and Parks Commission will consider a concept plan for Cannery Park that has been drafted from months of public comment.

“We wanted it to be unique. It will be a focal point of the city,” said Steve Plaza, manager of city parks, forestry, cemetery, buildings and grounds.

The park will be located along the west bank of the Chippewa River, north of West Madison Street, in an area the city is working to transform into a mixed-use neighborhood with new housing and businesses.

It is intended to attract people from the Eau Claire area, but also to replace nearby Kessler Park, which the city intends to sell for redevelopment.

This led to its design including elements found in small neighborhood parks, such as a playground, sports field, shelter, and restrooms. It will also include more unique amenities to appeal to a wider audience, including an all-weather skating area, space for food truck gatherings, and pathways people can use to get to the riverside.

A hill at the western end of the park also influenced how the playground should be constructed.

“We would incorporate the hill as part of the design,” Plaza said.

The park concept developed by consultancy group Confluence and Advanced Engineering Concepts shows a photo of a play area that uses the slope of a hill as a base for steps for children to climb and slides for them to descend .

In the center of the park would be a large flexible lawn near a shelter with toilets. This lawn could be used for multiple sports, such as volleyball, soccer, wrestling or various lawn games, Plaza said.

Just north of that would be an area with more specific sports in mind. Two hoops for half-court basketball are shown on the concept map alongside an irregularly shaped skate track.

Although it will not be a full-fledged skate park like what is currently planned elsewhere in Eau Claire at Boyd Park, Plaza said the Cannery Park skating area will still have certain features designed for people on skateboards.

And inside the skate track is a lawn that could be flooded in the winter to create an ice cap for ice skating, he said.

A paved recreational path already meanders through the future park along the top of the bank. The concept map for the park shows the addition of boardwalks closer to the river for nature walks or to go fishing.

Public opinion meetings and polls conducted in the fall in Eau Claire were used by Confluence to come up with the preferred design concept for the park.

Tonight’s meeting is the first stage of Cannery Park’s preferred concept, which will then be presented to the City Plan Commission on February 14.

There will also be future meetings needed to rezone the park’s lands, determine if all the features will fit into its $3.5 million budget, and then hire a company to build Cannery Park.

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