Landmarks Commission wants the job done

Preservation projects delayed


Ky McCombe

The Whitewater Landmarks Committee examines local landmarks that have preservation issues like the Starin Park Water Tower, Sept. 9, 2021.

Dauntae Green, Managing Editor

The Whitewater Landmarks Commission convened Sept. 2 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss current structural issues of landmarks in the community. Topics discussed by committee members and citizens included the Effigy Mounds Preserve alternate pathway and updates regarding the restoration plan of the Birge Fountain. 

The commission has been in discussions with the Urban Forestry Commission (UFC) about the current problems with maintenance within the Effigy Mounds Preserve and the Walton Oaks Park. Some members felt that the Urban Forestry Commission failed to do maintenance on the Effigy Mounds Preserve to create an alternative pathway. Need for the alternative pathway came after excessive storm damage happened throughout the area a couple of years ago making current paths difficult access points at the preserve. 

“I was contacted by one of the members of the UFC, and we went to the preserve to understand each other. I met with the man, who had knowledge previously of the mound. He knew what it looked like previously. He was absolutely appalled, and shocked by what he was seeing. He wanted to tour through the place, but agreed with me that it was going to be impossible to go through all of the shrubs and thorns in the way. He said he would make this point to the UFC. We discussed our common interests on the Effigy Mounds Preserve and Walton Oaks,” said Landmarks Commission Secretary Richard Helmick. 

The Effigy Mounds Preserve had the trees removed, but there were too many shrubs, bushes and significant amounts of obstacles in the way to make that area into an alternative pathway. The trees that were there previously came from an ancient tree ripped out by an old storm. The city removed the tree with some minor maintenance, but the pathway is still a mess from plant overgrowth, according to some commission members. The committee tried to obtain machinery to take care of the area, but was denied by the city.

“The city isn’t preserving the mounds,” said Chair Patricia Blackmer. “It’s their job. It’s time to get it done, and something needs to be done.” 

The discussion also turned to the restoration plans for the Birge Fountain having been delayed due to concerns from citizens over the landmark.

The Birge Fountain located at Flat Iron Park has been in need of renovations for some time now, according to the group. The city, however, had not taken any action for this either causing frustration among some members of the Landmarks Commission and citizens. 

“It’s an icon. It is a cultural area, and they’re not doing their job,” said concerned citizen Kori Overling about the Birge Fountain near downtown Whitewater. 

Birge Fountian stands 17 1/2 feet high and was donated to the city by Julius Birge in 1903, according to Travel Wisconsin. Birge required that the fountain be placed on the site of the little brick school where he learned to read and write. It can be found just outside the Whitewater Cultural Arts Center, which now holds the Whitewater Arts Alliance.

The committee will be taking their concerns before the Whitewater Common Council in hopes they will take action. It is for the landmark, for the history, and for the people of Whitewater to see this project through so they may preserve the beauty of their city. They hope to create that alternate pathway, get the chance to do the maintenance on Walton Parks and renovate the Birge Fountain. However, in order for these initiatives to occur, they need the city’s help and approval. The committee must now wait 60 days before they can go before the city council on behalf of the issues at hand.