Kevin Brunner, Walworth County public works director, said the park is an ideal location for people to enjoy the river and participate in their favorite outdoor activities.
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“The reason the county was interested in this property was the river. It’s almost two miles of frontage near the river,” Brunner said.
Residents will have to obtain a permit to fish, hunt or trap on the property.
“(Residents) will have to apply for a permit at the county public works department,” said Nancy Russell, Walworth County Board chairwoman. “They want to know how many people are on the property. They don’t want too many people doing (the hunting or trapping) all at one time. That could be dangerous.”
The park features a pond, which includes several species of fish and turtles. A fishing pier is in the works, Brunner said
“The pond is a really neat feature. It’s an old quarry. I have not seen them, but there’s supposed to be 100-year-old turtles in there,” Brunner said. “I think there’s some bass and panfish in there.”
The park includes a barn, which could be developed into a nature center.
“Right now, we’re doing a feasibility study about how much it would cost to preserve (the barn),” Brunner said. “I don’t know if it would be open year-round, but we’re looking at restoring it most likely into a nature center. We could have some community events there. The show pieces of the park are the river and the barn, and the potential to develop it over time is something we’re interested in.”
A corn field near the park will be maintained by a local farmer, but could be converted into a prairie area in the future.
The county is in the process of installing a parking lot near the park, as well as the canoe launch and canoe racks. The parking lot, which is about 50 yards from the river, will accommodate about 30 vehicles.
“It’s possible, in the future, that we might offer kayak and canoe rentals ... “ Brunner said.
There will be no cost for people to visit the park.
“It will be owned and operated by the county,” Brunner said. “It will function as a public park.”
The county purchased the property from former owner Duane Clark in March for about $1.9 million. The county received a stewardship grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to pay for half of the cost.
Brunner said the county has been negotiating with Clark since 2010 to purchase the property.
“The previous owner did a good job of maintaining the property,” Brunner said. “There are already trail systems in place. We have to maintain the trails a little bit. It’s a big investment. We want people to use the park right away. It’s a big asset for the county.”
Russell said she is pleased that the county was able to come to an agreement on the property.
“Mr. Clark wanted to have this be a public park, so he approached us,” Russell said. “He was so patient. He had a period of time where he had to wait for us to come up with a price. The more appraisals we got, we were able to come to an agreement. The county is very frugal and rightfully so. We just wanted to make sure we got it for an appropriate price.”
Brunner said the county recently posted a YouTube video with information about the park. The video can be viewed by going to Youtube/fiunt8amkr4.
“We spent a lot of money buying this. We don’t have a lot of money to fix it up, but we want people to use it,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”
Kathleen Tober, local 4-H leader, said she is looking forward to using the park.
“I think it would be a good place for the 4-H program to use,” Tober said. “It will have nature trails and all of that. I think it’s in a central location for kids to use. A lot of people are looking for places to go walking, and I think this would be a good place for people to go out and walk. I think this would be a good place for parents to take their kids. People need to get back to nature.”
Russell said White River County Park will be a welcome addition to Walworth County.
“I feel it’s one of the county board’s crowning achievements. I hope people will look at this as one of the county’s greatest accomplishments,” Russell said. “I’ve been there before we purchased the property. I can’t say enough good things about it.”
The park offers a chance for a nature getaway without having to travel far from home.
“The river is secluded. It’s full of wildlife. When you get on the trails, you will think you’re in northern Wisconsin or Canada,” Brunner said. “There’s over 100 species of trees. Over time, the park will be more developed and there will be additional amenities.”