Neighborhood Residents Ponder Creating River Access, Other Improvements at Boyd Park

Tom Giffey, photos by Chippewa Valley Museum

TAKE ME TO THE RIVER. Children and adults cool off in the Eau Claire River next to Boyd Park in this photo from the Chippewa Valley Museum’s collection, which was taken sometime between 1912 and 1932.
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER. Children and adults cool off in the Eau Claire River next to Boyd Park in this photo from the Chippewa Valley Museum’s collection, which was taken sometime between 1912 and 1932.

A century-old photo from the Chippewa Valley Museum gave Chris Buske a big idea for the Eastside Hill neighborhood: Why not re-open access to the Eau Claire River from Boyd Park? The picture in question, taken sometime in the 19-teens or ’20s, showed children splashing happily at a bathing beach adjacent to the park, just downstream from the current site of the pedestrian bridge. A wooden staircase leads down a rocky bluff to a wide, sandy beach.

“We have an opportunity to really tie in what’s happening at the Confluence to what’s happening at River Prairie.” – Chris Buske, Eastside Hill Neighborhood resident,
on creating access to the Eau Claire River at Boyd Park

While Buske and other members of the Eastside Hill Neighborhood Association don’t want to exactly recreate the early 20th century landscape – among other things, the city would prefer kids didn’t swim in the river these days – they would like to make it easier for residents to get in touch with nature, literally and figuratively, at that spot. To that end, the neighborhood association recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the City of Eau Claire allowing the nonprofit group to plan and raise funds for improvements in Boyd Park. In addition to river access via a nature trail, improvements could include scenic overlooks, a community/neighborhood garden, new playground equipment, a path through an adjacent prairie restoration area, and more.

Buske, a member of the neighborhood association’s steering committee, said the city has already granted permission to remove invasive species (such as buckthorn and nettle) and the remove fallen trees to open a path to the river. Ideally, that will happen this fall, allowing the public easier access to the river by spring. Native plantings are expected to follow.

For city dwellers such as Buske and his family, Boyd Park can be a nature-filled “back 40” that allows children and adults to enjoy the outdoors. For example, he said, providing river access at the spot will be helpful for kayakers, who have paddled the river more frequently since access was provided at Altoona’s River Prairie Park, about 1.5 miles upstream. “We have an opportunity to really tie in what’s happening at the Confluence to what’s happening at River Prairie,” Buske said.

Overall, the project – dubbed Boyd Park Plus – will require private fundraising to pay for a conceptual design for the park. After that, the neighborhood association likely will pursue grants to begin to fund the effort. Overall, Buske envisions integrating potential new elements into what’s already in the park, creating richer recreational opportunities for Eastside Hill dwellers, and everyone else in the Valley, too.

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