Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


Down Under

digging in the dirt to find a brighter tomorrow

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

Lately, we’ve heard a lot of talk about redevelopment. People want to tear up old streets and construct new ones. People are dreaming up riverside parks and pedestrian malls and plazas and mixed use whatchamacallits. Engineers are churning out colorful, well-lit conceptual illustrations with alarming speed and aggression. Planners are planning new plans. Builders are building new buildings.

Well, perhaps it’s time to slow down before our CAD printers run out of ink. I’m sorry, but none of these sexy, new plans and big ideas will enact the kind of positive growth for which the Chippewa Valley yearns. Lucky for all of us, I have the answer to our collective redevelopment conundrum:


The explosion you just heard was your mind blowing. You can talk about green space and shop space and outer space all you want – but I want to take this discussion underground. What if we were able to reinvent the Chippewa Valley, radically changing its character, by combining a phenomenal (and largely imaginary) transportation system with a whole new set of applaudable local attributes? You’re absolutely right – this would be the best thing ever. And with tunnels, we can make it happen. 

Firstly and foremostly, tunnels are awesome. Who doesn’t love a first-rate tunnel? As children, we were drawn to build them in sandboxes and snowbanks. As adults, we are compelled to tunnel into the earth for the extraction of coal, the building of doomsday bunkers, and the exploration of the Earth’s cavernous center. You may have heard rumors about tunnel-based travel systems in cities like New York, San Francisco, and Gotham City. I assure you, the rumors are true. And if something is good enough for New York, surely it’s good enough for the Chippewa Valley. 

Secondly and aftmostly, tunnels are practical. They save space, they create jobs, and they often have lights at the end of them. More importantly, think of the environmental benefits underground transportation would allow us to reap. Instead of floating into the atmosphere, toxic vehicle emissions would be absorbed by a hearty layer of top soil before leeching into the local water table to remain hidden forever. Seriously, what’s not to love?

I’m not proposing a simple subway service. I’m proposing a Complex Network of Subterranean Tubes (CNST) for the passage of Super Fast Subterranean Trolleys (SFSTs). 

What was once a boring twenty minute drive betwixt Chippewa Valley townships could soon be an 18 minute subterranean adventure ending in a mouthful of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.

A fabulous network of underground tubes would be a boon to trans-valley travel. Let me ask you this. Have you ever been strolling about downtown Eau Claire only to ask yourself, “Wow, my sweet tooth is just begging for a treat. I’d love some delicious ice cream from Olson’s Ice Cream, located in scenic downtown Chippewa Falls. But how can I get there quickly and without taking a car, bus, or bicycle?”

The answer is a resounding “tunnels.”

What was once a boring twenty minute drive betwixt Chippewa Valley townships could soon be an 18 minute subterranean adventure ending in a stomach full of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.*

As car travel becomes increasingly uncool, we need to get serious about finding its super cool replacement. Bikes are nice. Busses get the job done. And passenger trains are enjoying what appears to be a comeback.** But people, listen up. We need to be ahead of the curve on this. Why? Tourism, duh. 

Everyone I’ve ever met loves the Chippewa Valley’s natural beauty – the trees, rivers, hills, rocks, ferns, soils, and squirrels. But think about it – all of this is merely the surface of our attractive landscape. It’s nothing more than wrapping paper for the glorious gift inside. And you get to the inside via tunnels.

Right below the sod, just begging to be exploited by our local tourism industry, you’ll find magnificent root systems, sparkly geodes, cute families of moles, iron deposits, buried treasure, and the occasional elephant skeleton. Who wouldn’t buy a ticket to see such natural wonders? I know I wouldn’t not buy one. 

You know, people like to call us a “city of rivers,” and that’s just fine. I like rivers, too. But can you imagine a tall sign proudly proclaiming that Eau Claire is a “City of Tunnels?” Can you imagine a promotional t-shirt with a large black hole on the front and one on the back?  I believe you can.

With tunnels, we’ve got no where to go but up.

*Imaginary travel times are estimated.
**In Minnesota.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.