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From a weed patch to a destination
Random Thoughts - April 14
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - A sure sign of the end of winter is when the village and school district employees begin to put the Muscoda park system back in shape for the coming seasons.

There is something new this spring. Several of the “neighbors”, who occupied the new “permanent” campsites in Riverside Park last summer, were back in town for the weekend. They hooked up their campers, raked leaves, chatted with each other and waved when curious village old-timers drove past.

Muscoda has an incredible park system that stretches from the railroad tracks to the Wisconsin River. The high school softball team will be playing on a new ball diamond this year, located adjacent to the high and middle school building.

The parks and their facilities didn’t happen over night. They are the result of many visions and countless hours of work by many village and school board members, plus a collection of do-good organizations and individual volunteers.

Old newspaper articles relate that it was 74 years ago when citizens of the Muscoda School District held a meeting, probably in the red brick school that once overlooked Wisconsin Avenue at the spot where the Public Library now stands.

They met to consider what should be done with $45,000 that Dr. Pickering, a Muscoda physician, left to the school district? Among their ideas was developing a new school athletic field and park facility. That meeting was, perhaps the beginning of something big.

Prior to that, high school sports were held in a “Lower Town Park.” The late Liz Schoenbeck, who lived her life adjacent to that facility, now known as Jaycee Park, described the area between the school and the ballpark as “mostly sand and sandburs.”

By the time the Smiths arrived here in 1958 to buy “The Progressive” newspaper, Pickering Park was the envy of the area. That park, plus a brightly lit Wisconsin Avenue that locals called “The Great White Way”, showcased the community. Plus, there were serious conversations about building a swimming pool “to keep the kids out of the river!”

Near the river was a small park that saw little use. A group of mothers decided the space could serve as a summer camp for the local Girl Scout troop. One eager scout-leader was the wife of a village board member – so that probably helped the cause. The weeds were cut, an old wood shed was repaired and water became available. The girls raised the Stars and Stripes in the morning – and a useful park was born.

Through the many following years Riverside Park has been modernized and enlarged to include the Veterans Memorial and playground on the west – a natural prairie on the east, connected with a walking trail along the riverbank. Plus, the new “permanent campground” brings neighbors to the community during the summer months.

Of course the parks, ball fields, campground, swimming pool, tennis courts, etc., all cost money to build and maintain. The cost-benefit ratio can be argued – but one thing is certain, during the warm months that daily trip to check out the river has become more interesting.