CONTINUING COVERAGE: Tube take out approved by Eau Claire City Council
Eau Claire (WQOW) - As the temperature rises, the Chippewa River begins to look more like a bowl of cheerios as tubes fill the river and now, they're being given another exit point.
Tuesday night, on a vote of nine to one the council approved a lookout deck and tube takeout at the corner of Menomonie Streetand Fifth Avenue. The takeout or exit point would come with a new trail.
The plan was recommended by two city commissions earlier this year, but it didn't come without concerns being raised. The police and fire chief had worries about the current of the water near the site as well as its proximity to water street and the bar scene. It took about an hour of discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting.
"If you look at what actually happens, the people that go in the river and drown, they do it from a place where the access is easy,” said Council Member Eric Larsen. “They don't go down the river bank and fall in the river and drown, it happens where they're invited and I see this as an invitation.” Others felt that people would go to the river no matter what.
"You can't legislate stupidity,” said Dave Klinkhammer. “If people are going to behave in a manner that is inappropriate, they're going to do that whether this trail is in there or not."
Some council members had already voted on the project when it was in front of city commissions. "I have to admit I voted no at the plan commission,” said Council Member Kathy Mitchell. “I wasn't really sure about it then, but since then I have come to see its value." "On waterways I opposed it also,” said Bob Von Haden. “One of the reasons that helped me support this, was the letter from Sean Hartnett from the university that said he had his class take a look at this and they said it benefits the tubers and they're the ones that use the river."
An amendment to get rid of the takeout failed and the project was approved nine to one with Council Member Larsen voting against the project.
"It’ll be great! Water Street is the perfect area, we can help people be in safe access to and from the river and hopefully this is the start of a new development along the river,” said Lisa Aspenson from the Water Street Business Improvement District.
The project now enters its design phase where supporters hope to address some of the concerns that have been voiced.
"There’s always worry and safety has to be our first concern and I think going forward everything has to look at safety issues,” said Aspenson. Aspenson said she hopes the lookout deck and trail can be constructed this summer.
The project is expected to cost about $100,000 paid for by the Water Street Business Improvement District.
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