Party in the Park
public places for your gathering abound
Park pavilions in the city of Eau Claire were rented more than 1,000 times last year, and it’s no surprise. From traditional open-sided shelters full of picnic tables perfect for family reunions to a riverside labyrinth ideal for an intimate outdoor wedding, the city offers 16 different community park options for rental, plus another 18 shelters that can be reserved in smaller neighborhood parks. Just be aware that some of the more popular venues book up fast, especially during the late spring and summer months when graduation parties and weddings fill the calendar.
Dawn Comte, recreation manager for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, advises that you think ahead about the venue you want if you’re planning a wedding or a similarly large event. The department begins taking reservations for the coming year in December. This year, the first date is Dec. 7, and reservations can be made in person at the parks office (915 Menomonie St.) or online (www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us/departments/recreation-services/parks/pavilions-shelters).
Deciding on a venue for your wedding/reunion/reception/ soirée will depend on any number of factors, one of the most important being size. And size is one of the factors that separates the pavilions and other rentable areas at community parks from those at neighborhood parks. Venues in the first group can in many cases fit hundreds of people; in the latter group, a few dozen at most. Costs also vary, with rentals at neighborhood pavilions just $30 any day of the week, versus up to $61 for a weekend half-day at community park pavilions (and $125 for a full day at the Phoenix Park Pavilion). Another major difference: Alcohol is allowed at most community park venues but is prohibited at neighborhood parks.
Another factor that may impact your decision is a venue’s popularity. Unsurprisingly, two in Carson Park top the most-rented list: Both Pine Pavilion (next to the large parking lot) and Oak Pavilion (next to the playground) were rented nearly 100 times last year. Other popular locales include the Phoenix Park Pavilion (85 rentals), the Boyd Park Shelter (70), the Braun’s Bay Pavilion at Carson Park (68), and Rod and Gun Park (67). Unless you act early, these pavilions may be reserved for prime dates already, so plan ahead (or hope to get lucky).
Fortunately, even if your first choice of a public party venue has been nabbed by someone else, there’s likely an alternative – maybe even one you haven’t thought of. While the Phoenix Park Pavilion may be popular, the Phoenix Park Plaza – the area between the trailhead building and the bridge – is also available for rent (but rarely is). The same goes for the picturesque Hoover Chapel in Lakeview Cemetery, a memorable spot for a special occasion – as long as you don’t mind the fact that it’s surrounded by gravestones.
Another overlooked gem is Riverview Island Pavilion in Riverview Park, which – as its name implies – is located on an island in the Chippewa River. It’s a scenic spot reachable by a footbridge, and it even has a volleyball court.
And Comte reminds residents that they shouldn’t overlook neighborhood parks as party possibilities. She notes that they are ideal for small gatherings such as birthday parties, baby showers, and neighborhood gatherings. They can be scenic, too: Consider County Farm Park, a newish, 10-acre park near Truax Boulevard with a beautiful view of the city’s north side.
Want to learn more about how to rent a shelter in an Eau Claire Park? Go to www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us and search for “Pavilions & Shelters.”