Arrowhead Park is a 30 acre park located at the south end of Little Lake Butte des Morts and just west of downtown Neenah. The asphalt trail and connecting trestles are part of the three (3) community Loop the Little Lake trail system. Arrowhead Park will become one of the major trail heads for this trail while also serving as the connection between nature and downtown Neenah with shops, restaurants and world headquarters for several business.
The land now known as Arrowhead Park was once submerged lake bottom and part of the Little Lake Butte des Morts ecosystem. The story of Arrowhead Park begins in 1950 when the Bergstrom Paper Company needed a landfill area to dispose of paper mill sludge and so made a proposal to the city regarding the development of a park in exchange for obtaining the title to submerged lake bottom from the State of Wisconsin and leasing approximately 4 acres to Bergstrom Paper Co. for the development of a treatment facility. In 1951, the state legislature granted the land transfer to the city for public purpose. And so, the process began of creating Arrowhead Park from paper sludge.
In 1973, Park Development Plan #2 was prepared by the Bergstrom Paper Company in coordination with the Neenah Park and Recreation Commission and Neenah Common Council. The landfill was closed in 1976. Glatfelter continued to operate the treatment plant and requested an additional 4 acres of land to develop what became known as the Fox Valley Energy Plan in 1995.
A new Conceptual Master Plan was developed in 2008. This plan consisted of primarily passive and nature-based programming and tried to hide and work around the Fox Valley Energy Plant. Implementation of the plan began in 2012 with the installation of a bike and pedestrian path and the development of Herb and Dolly Smith Park, located just to the west of Arrowhead Park.
In 2013 the Fox Valley Energy Plant shut down, leaving a huge structure to be removed from the proposed park site. The structure and site cleanup was completed in 2016. Removal of the structure and site cleanup led to a new Conceptual Plan in 2017.
2017 CONCEPTUAL MASTER PLAN
The City hired SEH to assist in the development and refinement of the new conceptual master plan. Previous plans were reviewed, additional public surveys and input meetings were held and specific stakeholder groups were interviewed to formulate the new plan. The foundation of the previous plans was incorporated into the new plan which included passive and nature-based programming enhanced through additional buildings to create a unique park and experience adjacent to Little Lake Butte des Morts. The overall master plan has been divided into 3 phases.
Phase 1: Park entrance/drive, parking and connecting bike and pedestrian trail loop, shoreline habitat restoration and an activity center building that will include concessions, equipment rentals, programming space and restroom facilities
Phase 2: East and West, including an outdoor amphitheater, public art, play areas, internal trails, and additional “touch the water” opportunities
Phase 1A has been completed. The city has contracted with a firm to monitor and maintain the shoreline plantings.
Phase 1B The city has award the Phase 1B – Pier project to Lund Construction Company and Phase 1B Prairie and Path construction to Vinton Construction Company. Work is expected to begin late fall of 2022 and be completed in spring 2023. Note that prairie seeding will occur in the fall of 2023 and then be monitored and maintained throughout a 3 year period.
Specific Development Activities:
Arrowhead Loop Development – A new gravel trail loop, Arrowhead Loop, is proposed on the western
portion of the park. The trail will be configured resembling an historic stone arrowhead, with the tip of the
arrowhead pointing to the east. The Arrowhead Loop will meander through newly established prairie
environments and provide visitor access to additional areas of Arrowhead Park.
Adventure Trail Development – The adventure trails will be located near the western ends of the
Arrowhead Loop, providing shortcuts on the Arrowhead Loop and additional outdoor opportunities for
park users. Amenities associated with the adventure trails will include stone steppers and side slopes
that include stone outcrops interspersed with the newly established prairie vegetation.
Pier System Construction – A new pier system will be constructed along the north shoreline of
Arrowhead Park centered on the building development site. The pier will include several areas for people
to gather and to access the water of Little Lake Butte des Morts. A kayak landing (Americans with
Disabilities Act accessible), an overlook area, benches, binoculars, and interpretive signs will be included
in pier amenities. Overall, the pier will provide approximately 2675 square feet of structure over the
Prairie Habitat Establishment – Native prairie habitat is proposed to be established on the western
portion of the site in the area of the Arrowhead Trail. Native prairie plants will be established and
maintained in this area, with special consideration given to selecting a seed mix that maintains the clay
cap intact. It is anticipated three to four different seed mixes will be utilized after extensive research into
the unique subsurface conditions at the site.
Planting Design – In addition to the prairie establishment, the proposed changes to the park would
include the planting of trees, shrubs, and perennials to provide areas of shade along with bird and
pollinator habitat. Groupings of trees and shrubs would be preferred in order to develop intertwined root
mass to resist wind blow down. The areas of trees and shrubs will be selected based on either six plus
feet of existing soil over the clay cap, or areas where six feet of organic fill soil can be placed over the
clay cap in order to avoid root damage to the clay cap. The selection of species will be based in part on
those with root masses that will not disrupt the clay cap. A maintenance plan has been developed for the
plantings and has been included with this submittal for your review.
PUBLIC SCULPTURE: PROMISE OF THE RIVER
The Park and Recreation Commission has identified Arrowhead Park as a place where public art and sculpture can be designed into the overall park concept. By blending nature, wind, water and art, a unique cultural experience will be developed.
Neenah placed its first piece of public art in Arrowhead Park in conjunction with the opening of the Loop the Little Lake Trail and continues to strive to encourage the development of public art.
The Commission has given local artist Tom Schultz permission to fundraise for the placement of a public sculpture entitled “The Promise of the River.” A prominent location at the cross roads of bisecting trails has been dedicated for this art piece, and we are excited to incorporate this piece of art into the overall Phase 1 design.