City of Chippewa Falls being asked to help pay for improvements - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

City of Chippewa Falls being asked to help pay for improvements to Irvine Park

 Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - A local zoo wants to give you a better look at some of the animals, but that view won't come without cost.  There are plans to improve Irvine Park Zoo and city is being asked to help foot the bill.  "People call it the jewel of the city,” explains Chippewa Falls Parks Director Dick Hebert.

A tortoise with a soft spot, laughing monkeys and a sleeping gray fox; they're just a few of the characters that line the fences of Irvine Park with curious onlookers. Hebert says, "One of the top reasons why people come to visit or live in Chippewa Falls is Irvine Park."

And a new facility could mean these wandering eyes wouldn't have to stop for winter. Hebert says, "We're hoping to build a new welcome center, small mammal and aviary building at Irvine Park."

The park unveiled the new plans last fall which call for the current structure to be torn down and the new one built in its place. This project comes with a price tag of about $3 million. "The sooner we can start construction, which means the less this project is going to cost. Because each year we delay construction, the cost goes up," explains Hebert.

Originally, project leaders hoped all of that money would come from donations and sponsorships, but after talking with a consulting firm, it seems an initial donation from the city would help encourage others to donate. Bill Hicks, the City Council President, says, "The question that kept coming back was, how would the city itself participate in helping this come to fruition."

Chippewa Falls Mayor, Greg Hoffman, says, "I do believe it is important for the city to provide some support, make sure they realize, the donors know, the city is serious about this project."

The committee of the whole met Wednesday to discuss it. Those working on the park project say $250,000 would be an ideal dollar figure from the city. Some raised concerns that the money would be better spent on things like roads. Hoffman says, "I think these monies that we're getting need to be reinvested in the long term. If I put $250,000 in a street, that's going to do maybe a quarter of a mile."

Hick says, "Nowhere, at a time, other than our operational budget have we made any kind of contribution to our parks. I thought this was a great opportunity."

The city says if it were to make a donation it would come from TIF funding, money from an agreement Chippewa Falls has with the EOG Sand Plant.

No decisions were made Wednesday and the council is recommending another committee review it next.   
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