And The Beach Goes On

In 2002, budget cuts forced the closure of beach programming, and after two more years of operation, the Oshkosh Area School District took over operations when Pollack Pool closed for a renovation into a new water park. Pollack Community Water Park opened in 2006 to much fanfare and both public and private monetary support. The beach remained closed. Most of the available certified lifeguards

An advertising campaign introduced the pavilion to the community, who responded by hosting weddings, reunions, birthday and graduation parties at the new facility.

An advertising campaign introduced the pavilion to the community, who responded by hosting weddings, reunions, birthday and graduation parties at the new facility.

were employed at Pollack, and with the popularity of the new water park, the beach just couldn’t compete. In 2008 and 2009, the beach house was officially renamed the Service Center, staffed by two seasonal employees who sold concessions and oversaw the facility as a swim-at-your-own-risk area. Expenses were cut in half from those in 1994, but revenues were also halved, and the levy was costing taxpayers, most of whom were from the local neighborhood, almost $35,000 for the 1,000 to 2,000 attendees who used the facility. After consultations with council on possible liability issues of swim-at-your-own-risk, a wrenching decision was made.

In 2009, the county board tasked the parks and recreation committee to create an ad hoc group to decide the fate of the beach. Eventually, after several meetings and much discussion, the decision was made to close beach operations—permanently.

Turning The Tide

In 2010, the facility remained closed, and the parks department began to transform the building into a pavilion available for the public to rent. The beach area was fenced off to limit access to the lake for safety reasons. What remained was a spectacular setting for community use. Using part-time labor and a crew from the local corrections facility during the off-season, the building was painted, updated for access, and refurbished inside and out. It went from a turquoise-blue exterior with air-brushed fish murals to a deep-green with bright-white interior. A mobile kitchen island and outside grill were added. The lake was drained to remove the liability of the diving platform (hence the bucket-brigade fish rescue) and refilled. Picnic tables with umbrellas for the patio and volleyball nets for use on the sand were procured. In 2011, an advertising campaign took place, and the pavilion was successful beyond our expectations, topping revenue estimates and attendance figures. Weddings, reunions, birthday and graduation parties were held, and the pavilion served as headquarters for larger park events like disc-golf tournaments and soccer festivals. All who used the facility raved about its amenities, serene location, and ample space. Plans are in the works to transform the former exterior showers into private terraces a la Europe, and more access updates continue to be made.

What once had been an obsolete building is now a thriving facility that the public loves to use, and is once again a one-of-a-kind for the community. Through the innovative use of part-time labor, as well as some corrections project crews and a little ingenuity, the county parks department has succeeded in transforming a 1968 facility into a facility for the new millennium. If you find yourself in possession of a facility that has gone out of fashion, it is possible to modernize and revive it. With today’s budgets, you just have to take it slow, be innovative, and look through new eyes. Though the lifeguards, dinosaur slide, and hallowed diving platform are gone, new memories are now being made for an entirely new generation. I will, however, never forget those dopey orange ribbons.

Vicky Redlin is the assistant manager for the Winnebago County Parks Department in Oshkosh, Wis. Reach her at vredlin@co.winnebago.wi.us.

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  1. “Hay-Days” On The Beach
  2. Lapping Up The Experience
  3. Belmar Beach
  4. Sunny Side Up
  5. Lake Mercer Morning Walk

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