By Faith Huey, UW Stout Harvey Hall News Bureau
This winter Wolske Bay, a 7-acre bay connected to Lake Menomin, was on its second year of being cleaned up, decorated, and being reimagined as a free ice-skating rink for the community. It’s repurposing also doubles for activities to do in the summer, as locals can come visit the cleaned-up bay for leisurely walks, bike rides, and more.
The bay wasn’t always a place for the community to frequent for outdoor activities like ice skating and walking trails. Originally a marina with a bait shop, Mayor Randy Knaack mentioned how the bay had been filled with around 3 feet of muck due to a lack of boat traffic for the last 25 years prior to its recent cleanup. In the summer, the sun heats up the surface water and produces a foul-smell.
As one of his goals after getting elected, Knaack said he took the initiative to have the lake and bay cleaned up to benefit Menomonie. After the lake was dredged and fixed up about 4 years ago, Knaack said he and other volunteers in the community wanted to take it a step further.
“We got the muck out of the bottom, and then I was talking to a few people and said, 'We should really turn this island into something cool and use it,’ ” Knaack said. “So, I got some buy-in from a couple of volunteers and then they said, ‘Well let’s decorate the island, clean it up, let’s get the weeds off, get the trees trimmed, let’s put this island back to use again.’”
Following the cleanup about 4 years ago, a small ice-skating rink was established last winter with free ice skates donated by the American Edge Real Estate Company, as well as additional donations from Knaack and other community members. The donated money allowed the previous bait shop to be turned into a warming house, and there were other contributions to help put up holiday lights to line the trail of the island.
For its second year in late 2022 and early 2023, the city granted $25,000 for Wolske Bay park to use for more holiday lights, improving and expanding the skating area, and additional supplies.
“Quality of life is one of the biggest draws we have to our community, and having the ability to offer things for families to do is a big quality of life issue for Menomonie, and we satisfy that issue with outdoor skating, sledding hills, and things to do during winter, summer, all four seasons,” Knaack said. “There’s a lot of gifted people and people give back to the community.”
Knaack said he also has some additional developments in the works for Wolske Bay Park in the future, including his goal of putting kayaks and electric bikes for community use in the spring of 2024. He also hopes to have snowshoes and cross-country skis available.