City eyes partnership deal with Ski Sharks

New beach area already a big hit

Contributed Photo The new beach and swimming area at the recently established Smalley Park in Shawano is fast becoming a popular attraction in its first month of summer operations.

The latest addition to the city of Shawano’s parks system seems to already be a hit with visitors during its first summer of operations, even though the new Smalley Park is still in the first phase of improvements the city hopes to make there.

Matt Hendricks, park and recreation director, said more than 70 people and several boaters turned out this past weekend to enjoy the new beach and swimming area at the park that runs along the Wolf River adjacent to the former Shawano Medical Center.

The Shawano Common Council approved a final development plan for the park in March that, in addition to the public beach, called for a dock, boat slips, canoe and kayak launch, an amphitheater seating area for the Ski Sharks shows, shelter, a concession stand and toilet and storage facility, and walking trails.

On Wednesday, the council will consider a memorandum of understanding with the Shawano Ski Sharks to split the cost of a new performance area for the Ski Sharks and an amphitheatre for its audience.

The new area would be moved north to just south of Third Street.

Hendricks said it was felt the Ski Sharks shows would be better situated away from the beach area.

In addition to a larger viewing area, the new area is wider and right next to the Shawano Lake outlet.

The shows already draw roughly 500 spectators each night.

Hendricks said the city’s partnership with the Ski Sharks in developing the park has been a benefit for the community. The club has already provided volunteer funding and labor, he said.

“It’s a great partnership. This is something the whole community can use and it’s being driven by the Ski Sharks,” Hendricks said. “People can be proud of this attraction and the way it uses our resources.”

Ski Sharks President Dave Passehl said the club and the city have been working as partners for a couple of decades, and the proposed memorandum of understanding is just the latest collaboration between them.

“It’s another re-affirmation of the investment the Ski Sharks and the city are making in the community,” he said.

The Ski Sharks have been the primary users of what was previously known as Wolf River Beach, Passehl noted.

For that reason, he said, the club felt it was “our responsibility to give back in that regard.”

He said the club was grateful to be able to make use of an incredible resource. He added that other teams and clubs that visit are also impressed.

“They can’t believe how incredibly fortunate we are,” Passehl said, adding the group is looking forward to taking part in future development of the park.

“We’re excited to see this project take place,” he said.

The first phase of park development has moved rapidly in a few short months, and has included bringing in some 250 tons of sand for the new beach.

Some landscaping and materials for a retaining wall were salvaged from the former hospital.

Park and recreation employees built the park signs at a significant cost saving, according to Hendricks.