New Richmond park gets new nameIn honor of area veterans, Hatfield Lake Regional Park in New Richmond has been renamed Freedom Park.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
In honor of area veterans, Hatfield Lake Regional Park in New Richmond has been renamed Freedom Park.
In a 4-1 vote at Monday’s New Richmond City Council meeting, the name change was approved, but there was considerable debate on the topic prior to the vote being taken.
The city’s Park Board had recommended that the council rename Hatfield Lake Regional Park and Hatfield Park as Hatfield Park West and Hatfield Park East. The idea for the name change was the result of confusion among park users as to which park was hosting various events.
A suggestion that the newest park be named Freedom Park, in honor of local veterans and in honor of the National Guard troops who had helped excavate the park property in the summer of 2011, had been met with some excitement. But the enthusiasm was dampened recently by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Joe Kerlin, the state would not pay for signs to the park on the western shore of Hatfield Lake because the property does not have running water, permanent bathrooms or handicapped accessibility.
Kerlin told the council, however, that the state would pay for directional signs and allow for the signs to be installed along the state highway if the two parks were combined and given similar names.
Kerlin said the Hatfield West and East names would likely be an interim solution to the signage problem, suggesting that the western park could be named Freedom Park at a later date when bathrooms were built and the park was made more handicapped accessible.
“This is going to be an interim thing at this time,” Kerlin said.
Several council members balked at the idea of the West and East names, despite the fact that the DOT would not fund signs or allow for signs to be placed along Highway 64.
“I think this is an appropriate time to name it Freedom Park,” said council member Ron Volkert. “We should name it the correct name from the start. It’s the perfect opportunity right now to honor our veterans.”
Freedom Park would also honor the National Guard troops who spent their summer training in New Richmond in 2011 excavating the park, Volkert said.
The effort saved the city thousands of dollars and that work should be recognized, he added.
Council member Roberta Dale-Wozniak agreed, noting that the park is next to the city’s National Guard armory, which houses Company B, 1-128th Infantry, a unit which served two tours in the Middle East over the past decade. She said there are plenty of good reasons to name the park in honor of those who have served this country and few reasons not to name it Freedom Park.
But council member Kirk Van Blaircom was a little less enthusiastic about the idea of honoring local veterans by renaming the park. Van Blaircom called Hatfield Lake Regional Park a work in progress and it needs a lot of improvements to bring it up to acceptable standards.
He said renaming the property Freedom Park would be a “slap in the face” to veterans and not an honor.
“That park is not the shining star of our park system,” he said, noting that the soil on the soccer and baseball fields is so hard that young athletes are often injured while playing on it.
If the park is renamed Freedom Park, Van Blaircom implored the rest of the council to spend the necessary money to improve the facilities so that the park stands as an appropriate testament to the sacrifices that veterans have made for our country.
“I want it to look good and I want it to be a place we can be proud of,” he said.
Volkert agreed that the park needs more work, but that it will eventually be a wonderful facility for all to use and it will serve as an appropriate memorial to all veterans.
“It’s by no means a slap in the face to these gentlemen (veterans),” Volkert said. “That park is going to develop and it’s going to be a beautiful place.”
After a motion to table discussion on the new name failed, the council voted 4-1 to rename the property Freedom Park. Council member Jane Hansen cast the lone “no” vote. Mayor Fred Horne and Council member Jim Zajkowski were absent from the meeting.