TAKING THE HIGH BRIDGE: E.C.’s Fourth of July Fireworks Find New Home
due to growing safety concerns, fireworks have been relocated from Carson Park
McKenna Scherer, photos by Branden Nall |
Longtime attendees of Carson Park’s Fourth of July fireworks show will need to adjust their plans, as the City of Eau Claire has confirmed a new launch site for this year’s event: the historic High Bridge.
The 80-foot-tall High Bridge, which stretches across the Chippewa River in downtown Eau Claire, will provide an elevated launching point while its location will create more potential seating for viewers. The City of Eau Claire’s community services director, Lane Berg, described the pros of the “Fireworks Extravaganza” show’s new location.
“I certainly understand and respect the time-honored tradition (of) fireworks at Carson Park, but we felt strongly that the safety and liability issues were our top concerns,” Berg explained. “It’s hard to get people in and out (of Carson Park for the event), being a really congested area. From a safety perspective, it’s hard to get emergency services into the site, which the (City) Council heard us reiterate several times.”
Safety concerns included risk of fire due to the large pine trees surrounding the Carson Park launch site and a previous misfire which struck bleachers in 2022. The city expects to save $12,000 in staff overtime costs for the show as well.
“I certainly understand and respect the time-honored tradition (of) fireworks at Carson Park, but we felt strongly that the safety and liability issues were our top concerns.”
EAU CLAIRE'S COMMUNITY SERVICES DIRECTOR
Berg said the city also reached out to the Department of Natural Resources to discuss what, if any, concerns there would be about firework debris ending up in the river. The DNR was not concerned about debris being an issue due to a couple of key factors.
“When fireworks explode, they almost 100% combust so there’s very little matter (left). There are little pieces of paper that may end up in the river, and those are biodegradable, so will break down very rapidly,” Berg explained.
The river has a significant flow that goes under the High Bridge every single day – nearly 670 million gallons, Berg said – and during high-flow events, it’s closer to 10 billion gallons. “So if there is any matter that gets into the river (from the fireworks), it’s going to be diluted very, very quickly,” he said.
While Carson Park provided about three acres of land for folks to sit and view the firework show, moving to the High Bridge opens up more than 70 acres of city land for viewers.
The city is discussing the possibility of also shutting off the Madison Street bridge to allow folks to put lawn chairs there and view the show from the bridge, though abundant room will be offered along the trails and riverfront on either side of the High Bridge.
“The High Bridge gives us unique opportunities,” Berg explained. “We might have some music down at Phoenix Park for the event too and encourage downtown businesses (to get involved). … Shooting fireworks over water is highly desirable, too. Reflections off the water will be tremendous, and it was identified by ACE Pyro that he can offer cascading firework that will actually fall over the bridge. It’ll be a beautiful show, and we’re excited for it.”
The city hopes the community will continue to partake in traditional Chippewa Valley events for the Fourth of July, such as the staple Eau Claire Express baseball game. City officials also promised the City Council that after the event at the new location, they will analyze how it went and reevaluate if the fireworks show will continue there or not.
The Fourth of July fireworks show has previously been held outside of Carson Park, most recently at Forest Hill Cemetery for a couple of years during the height of COVID-19.
Local emergency service teams were on board with the proposal to move the show from Carson Park to the High Bridge, Berg said. City employees who typically work the Fourth of July may also see more opportunity to enjoy the holiday outside of work, too, because the High Bridge setup also requires fewer on-site employees.
The city will release parking and traffic control plans once they have been finalized prior to the event.
See the City of Eau Claire’s website for more details about the “Fireworks Extravaganza” show, slated to begin at 10pm on July 4.