Rain delays Hatfield park project in New RichmondPlans for Hatfield Lake Regional Park have changed quite a bit since the National Guard’s 229th Horizontal Engineer Company from Platteville rolled into town earlier this month.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
Plans for Hatfield Lake Regional Park have changed quite a bit since the National Guard’s 229th Horizontal Engineer Company from Platteville rolled into town earlier this month.
For one thing, no one anticipated the rain.
“We’re a horizontal engineer company,” said 1st Sgt. Andrew Aasen. “We do everything horizontal – helipads, FOBs (Forward Operating Bases), roads, trails… that’s our main mission – shaping the earth. When the ground is wet … mud can’t be moved or shaped.”
The original plan was to excavate about 40 acres at the park, said Dave Mehls, site manager. Now, it looks like only 13-14 acres – two soccer fields, three retaining ponds and a parking lot — will be complete before the group ships out July 1.
The good news is that the Guard will return next weekend.
“I received permission for that today,” Aasen said on Friday morning.
About 140 soldiers – in two shifts — have been working on the project since it began on June 6. The work is being done at no cost to the city, other than fuel costs, Mehls said. The unit brought all the manpower and equipment needed.
The Guard is using its work at Hatfield Lake Regional Park as part of its annual training, of which soldiers are required to complete 15 days of training in addition to its once-a-month weekend training. The first shift started working on the park on June 6; the second shift began working June 17.
The soldiers of the 229th Horizontal Engineer Company have varying experience with the equipment, Aasen said. Some of the soldiers are college students who hadn’t operated bulldozers and scrapers before enlisting in the Guard; others work full-time jobs operating the equipment.
Although it doesn’t help the park any, the rainy week wasn’t a total waste for the unit, Aasen said.
“We’ve been doing some basic soldier training called ‘Army Warrior Training,’” he said. “That involves map reading, communication with radios and other things.”
Even with the rain, Aasen said the New Richmond project has been perfect for the soldiers.
“It’s hard to get a project that fits our unit’s mission as well as this one does,” he said.
Along with the 229th Horizontal Engineer Company, medics and surveyors from other units are also participating in the training project.
“The medics are here in case of injury,” he said. “So far we haven’t had any equipment-related injuries.”
The heat on June 6 and 7 was another story.
During the 103-degree days the unit was out in the field fully uniformed, Aasen said. The uniforms are used to protect the soldiers from sunburn, and any cuts or bruises they could get from flying debris, he said.
“We train for extreme cold and extreme heat,” he said. “The worst of it was Monday. It wasn’t the hotter of the two days, but there was no wind. Tuesday we had wind.”
To deal with the temperatures, work schedules were adjusted, Aasen said.
“In the extreme heat they’ll work 40 on and 20 off – they’ll work for 40 minutes and rest with water for 20 minutes,” he said.
The community has been very welcoming, Aasen said. Several motorists honk in support as they pass and it’s not uncommon for park goers to stop and watch the activity at the site.
While out and about several soldiers have been approached by community members, Aasen said.
In addition to the general population, several local organizations and businesses have stepped forward to thank the soldiers for their work, Mehls said. Super America, in cooperation with Coke, has been providing ice and Powerade to the soldiers; the Motivational Marketing Group provided ice cream; Cedar Creek Inn has been assisting with the cost of laundry; and Village Laundry is offering a special military discount for the troops while they’re in town. The VFW and American Legion are providing meals for the soldiers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Shelley Johnson has also been providing meals with her lunch trailer, Mehls said.
Hatfield Lake Regional Park currently houses soccer, t-ball and coach pitch baseball fields. The plan is to add baseball, softball and additional soccer fields, which will be available for use by youth and adult athletes.