Phoenix Park to become the Final Frontier

by Heather Mawhiney

Professor Paul Thomas, along with help from UWEC student Janis Roadt, plan to install a planet walk along the trail in Phoenix Park to the UWEC campus. The plan, which has already been approved by the city council, is undergoing fundraising and finalizing design elements for its intended completion in 2011. “I think [planet walks] are a wonderful,” said Thomas, a physics and astronomy professor. “They teach so much about the way the things are organized. The solar system is huge and the planets are really rather small in comparison.” The planet walk will include all nine planets (including the controversial Pluto), each relative in size to the 1.08 miles of trail. For example, the Sun will be 16 inches in diameter, with the Earth being less than 1 inch. The planet walk will be a permanent display on the trail, including a stand, planet model, a plaque for each stop informing passersby about each planet, and the direction to the next stop, though the materials are yet to be determined. “The walk will be pedestrian friendly and accessible to anyone, ages 8 to 80,” said Thomas. “I think it will be a really elegant and interesting addition to the park and trail, hopefully not only encouraging people to walk to trail, but possibly also drawing in people who aren’t from the area to see it.” The project is projected to cost about $30,000 to install, with minimal maintenance and upkeep. Thomas and Roadt will attend an Ask a Scientist discussion at Acoustic Café next spring to provide the community and potential donors with more information