You Could Be Splashing in Wilson Park’s New Water Feature as Soon as This Summer

Tom Giffey

Click for a closer look.
Click for a closer look.

A new plan for downtown Eau Claire’s Wilson Park features a splash pad-style cluster of in-ground bubblers surrounded by boulders, benches, and berms to provide shady seating for park visitors. The features would replace the park’s central fountain, which has been out of commission since 2018 because of a failed pipe and which the city determined would be too costly – and possibly impossible – to repair.

The designs were created by Design Studio Etc. of Madison based on more than 160 pieces of public input gathered through three design workshops last fall as well as two online surveys. Concepts from three design alternatives were merged into the final sketches, which will serve as a high-level design that will be further refined as the process continues, said Josh Solinger, a budget analyst with the city, who is overseeing the project.

Solinger said much of the public input centered around themes of keeping the park’s design simple, incorporating the idea of rivers in the blueprints, providing ample seating, creating something that requires minimal maintenance, and making use of the existing statue of Old Abe, the famed bald eagle who accompanied Chippewa Valley soldiers to the Civil War.

Click for a closer look.
Click for a closer look.

From the beginning, a new water feature was part of the discussion: Wilson Park has had a fountain since at least the 1890s, with the current one dating to 1969. And while the water feature is designed to be interactive – in other words, expect kids and adults to get wet there – it isn’t meant to be a full-scale waterpark-like splash pad. Like the in-ground fountains at downtown’s Haymarket Plaza, which erupted to life last summer, the water feature at Wilson Park will have both playful and aesthetic uses. In addition to people splashing in the water, the park will be designed to be inviting for people who simply want to sit there and enjoy a quiet urban space, Solinger said. The water may be operated on a timer, or it may be passive, coming to life only when a visitor presses a button.

The preliminary plans were shown to the city’s Waterways and Parks Commission in late January. In the coming months, construction documents and cost estimates will be prepared, and the project will be put out to bid. The City Council approved $147,000 for the project in its most recent Capital Improvement Plan. Solinger said the city hopes construction occurs over the summer, which means you could be enjoying the water feature’s refreshing spray will the weather is still warm.

Learn more about the project online at www.eauclairewi.gov/government/our-divisions/wilson-park-fountain