© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How to save a park: the rebirth of Town Line Lake Park

The view from the east side of Town Line Lake Park.
Ben Meyer/WXPR
The view from the east side of Town Line Lake Park.

Last Thursday afternoon, Tracy Beckman was busy showing Linnaea Newman how to operate the new accessible kayak launch at Town Line Lake Park near Rhinelander.

The launch is designed to allow people with mobility problems to get into and launch their boats. Newman has trouble walking and gets around using a cane. Her excitement to try it was palpable.

“I look at my kayak every day. Are my kayaking days over? I can see today that they’re not, because this I can do,” Newman said.

The Friends of Town Line Lake Park cut the ribbon on their accessible fishing pier and kayak launch.
Ben Meyer/WXPR
The Friends of Town Line Lake Park cut the ribbon on their accessible fishing pier and kayak launch. Secretary Tracy Beckman is at center with the scissors.

Minutes earlier, members of the Friends of Town Line Lake Park had cut the ribbon on the new combination fishing pier and kayak launch, all accessible to people with disabilities. It’s the first structure of its kind in Oneida County.

“Kayaking this lake is amazing. If you’re somebody who has limited abilities, [you] can come here with their kayak and kayak this lake,” said Beckman, the secretary of the Friends group.

But the possibility of adding an improvement like the kayak launch was no sure thing just a few years ago.

In fact, the very existence of Town Line Lake Park was in jeopardy.

Friends of Town Line Lake President David Walters.
/
Ben Meyer/WXPR

David Walters grew up fishing in the lake and playing on the playground there. By the 2010s, though, the lack of maintenance was impossible to miss. Walters described the state of the park as he walked through it last Thursday.

“It was really sad,” he said. “This was absolutely covered in pine needles. I don’t even remember if you could actually see the parking lot itself, it was so covered.”

Overgrown pine saplings six feet tall made use of the open space next to impossible.

Then, in 2020, Walters got wind of an Oneida County plan to sell a part of the park, perhaps for a residential development on the lakefront. Not many people loved Town Line Lake Park, it seemed, so selling it might make sense.

Walters was appalled. He took his reaction to his favorite medium.

““I think I’ve always had a penchant for complaining about things on Facebook,” he said with a smile.

As it turned out, Walters was far from alone.

Plenty of people had fond memories of the park and were unwilling to see it sold without a fight.

“Once I just kind of raised the alarm on Facebook, the amount of people that reached out to us, offering their equipment, offering money, offering whatever they could to help, it was overwhelming in a lot of ways,” Walters said.

They formed the Friends of Town Line Lake Park, printed yard signs, and showed up at county meetings. The county backed down. The park wouldn’t be sold.

“In this case, it very much could have been something entirely different than what it is today,” said Walters, who is now the president of the Friends group. “If you give people the opportunity to preserve this type of stuff, a lot of times, they’re going to jump.”

Once unmaintained and overgrown, this space at Town Line Lake Park now hosts concerts.
Ben Meyer/WXPR
Once unmaintained and overgrown, this space at Town Line Lake Park now hosts concerts.

Along the way, the Friends group flipped a switch.

The park had been saved from sale; now it was time to make it worthy of a place for the community again.

Volunteers cleared pine needs, pulled saplings, and improved trails.

Today, the park even hosts Walters’ band, Old Pine Road, for an annual fundraising concert.

But for the passion of dedicated volunteers, the ending might have been much different.

“What started as just a small action is now a tangible, physical place where generations of children and families are going to be able to spend time and make memories and bring their kids here,” said Walters.

As part of its next initiative, the Friends of Town Line Lake Park organization hopes to connect its trails to the extensive trail system at nearby Hanson Lake.

A loon spreads its wings on Town Line Lake.
Ben Meyer/WXPR
A loon spreads its wings on Town Line Lake.

Stay Connected
Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He then contributed with periodic stories until 2024. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
Up North Updates
* indicates required