Volunteers needed at Irvine Park & Zoo, improvements coming to C - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Volunteers needed at Irvine Park & Zoo, improvements coming to Chippewa Falls parks

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Chippewa Falls (WQOW) - An annual holiday light show in Chippewa Falls is in need of your help to keep its bulbs aglow.

The Chippewa Falls Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has already started decorating Irvine Park with lights for its 29th annual Christmas Village. Dick Hebert, the park director, said park crews started two weeks ago after learning one of its largest groups of volunteers would be forced to scale back on hours at the park this year. He said the Wisconsin Department of Corrections is allowing inmates at the Chippewa Valley Correctional Facility to volunteer a total of only four days this year, as opposed to 12 days in 2015. Hebert said the free light spectacle requires countless hours of help from hundreds of volunteers. 

"This year, their hours have been cut even more than last year. That's a lot of man hours, a lot of volunteer man hours that we're losing. So, we need help from the community,” Hebert said. If you'd like to volunteer to help set up the Christmas Village, you can call the City of Chippewa Fall's Park, Recreation and Forestry office at 715-723-0051.

Turning the spotlight on a different part of Irvine Park, its newly opened center is welcoming a wave of visitors. Hebert said staff do not track how many visitors come to Irvine Park and Zoo. But, they've noticed an increase in foot traffic because of the newly opened Welcome Center. News 18 reported in mid-June when the $3.9 million building opened to the public. He said the Welcome Center is twice the size of the previous venue.

“The locals or people who have been to Irvine Park before, we know what's here in Irvine Park, but we get many visitors to the park,” Hebert said. “The park is 300 acres. There are many, many attractions in this park." Hebert said staff still need to purchase technology equipment for the new learning pod inside the Welcome Center.

With more visitors to the park and zoo, Chippewa Falls officials are looking to make it easier to find the local favorite. The Chippewa Falls Park Board met Tuesday night to discuss adding new signs that would direct people to the park. Hebert said the current signs are not uniform and told News 18 that many are made out of wood and are outdated.

Also up for discussion on Tuesday's meeting, Chippewa Falls park board members will discuss improvements at another local park. A master plan for Marshall Park was completed in 2012. On Tuesday night, the board will review that master plan with some of its new members, who were not serving on the board when it was written. Hebert said the master plan for Marshall Park includes moving the skateboard park and basketball courts closer to Bridgewater Avenue. He said the plan also includes replacing old wooden skateboard ramps with new ones and adding a new concrete pad. The park board will make a decision at a future meeting on the long-term location of those two features.

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