Peshtigo’s Riverfront Park May Become Stibbe Park

At a long meeting on Monday, Sept. 26 Peshtigo City Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee postponed its decision on a request to change the name of Riverfront Park to Stibbe Park in honor of the first business that was located on the site, agreed to accept a new neighborhood mini park near K&K Warehouse at the end of Ellis Ave. for a lease fee of $1 per year, dealt with parking and other issues at the increasingly popular Badger Park, and held a long discussion on the difficulty of keeping up with all the lawn mowing responsibilities placed on Parks and Recreation Department personnel.
Former Peshtigo resident Bob Gross, who now lives in Bel Air, Maryland, was present at the meeting to present his request to change the name of Riverfront Park, and to explain why he felt it would be appropriate to name the site to honor the Stibbe family’s early impact on Peshtigo. He said he would pay, with limits, cost for changing in signage at the park and elsewhere in the city, and explained his proposal was not initiated by the Stibbe family, but is being coordinated with the family of Dutch and Flossie Stibbe.
Gross said he was employed at Stibbe’s Store from 7th grade through his high school years, and has remained in contact with the Stibbe family since he graduated from Peshtigo High School in 1962 and began his military career. He had a packet of information and photos showing early Stibbe business history in Peshtigo, and shared the information with Mayor Cathi Malke and committee members Debbie Sievert and Katie Berman and Chair Allen England.
In his written presentation, Gross declared that the Stibbe family has had a profound influence on the history and continued growth of Peshtigo and surrounding area since 1883, when Julius Henry Stibbe immigrated to the United States at age 16, and 10 years later, in 1893, opened J. H. Stibbe’s Riverside Restaurant and Candy Factory next to the bridge on French Street. In 1902 the business moved down the lock to the corner of French and NW French Streets, across from the current River Pub, until it was sold in 1968, and said J. H. and his son, Leonard Carl (Dutch) Stibbe operated the family business on most of the land currently occupied by Riverfront Park continuously for almost 75 years. He cited community progress assisted by J. H. and Dutch Stibbe and members of their families over the years; including Flossie Stibbe, who was a teacher in the Peshtigo school system and a community contributor for over 60 years, and Erving Stibbe, born in 1894, who was Peshtigo’s long-time city clerk. Stibbe Lane is named for him. Gross said the Riverfront Park property has long roots in the Stibbe family, and felt renaming the park would compliment the adjacent Stibbe Lane.
Gross said his offer to pay expenses involved with the changing the name will remain in effect until Friday, March 31, 2023.
He said Dutch Stibbe founded the Peshtigo Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce, “...and the Stibbe family legacy is still holding on.”
England said he too has some information on the property, and recalled that the building on the river had become a teen center after the Stibbe business was moved.
Gross had suggested renaming to “Stibbe Park,” but was not opposed to Lori Tonn’s suggestion that it could become “Stibbe’s Riverfront Park.”
Mayor Malke noted a bench honoring the Stibbe family had been donated already for Riverfront Park, and suggested there should be an informational kiosk placed by the bench relating the history of the property, and the history of the Stibbe family’s involvement in Peshtigo.
After long discussion the committee agreed to postpone a decision to a future date. There was some concern about others who may have asked to have a park, ball field or other city facility named for a specific person.
“Do I think it’s a wonderful idea? I do,” Mayor Malke declared, but added she would like to do more research to be sure they were not stepping on anyone’s toes.
Motion to table the request until the committee’s next meeting was approved, but a decision may be coming shortly. The next Parks and Recreation meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6. Malke said she may or may not have enough information by then. Peshtigo City Council is to meet on Tuesday, Oct. 4, but the possible new name will not be on that agenda.
Parks and Recreation Director Lori Tonn thanked members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for their cleaning up the grounds at the Drees Community Center on Sunday, Sept. 11.
What may be on the Council agenda is the new neighborhood mini park at the end of Ellis Ave.
The proposal for that park came up near the end of the meeting after much discussion on the workload already handled by the Parks and Recreation Department, but the decision to accept the offer from Kay &KW, LLC to lease the site to the city for $1 a year was accepted.
Malke said she had received a letter from someone requesting a place for kids to play on the feed mill side of the city. England explained the proposed site is a little green area at the end of Ellis Ave., “a pocket that could be converted into a small park.”
Tonn said adding that to their mowing duties would not be much of a problem because they are already there cutting at the water tower.
Malke agreed there are no parks on that side of the city.
Berman asked if there is any playground equipment left from the old Badger Boardwalk that could be put there, but was told there is not. Tonn said she may be have located a piece of playground equipment they could buy for about $250 to be moved there.
England’s motion to rent the parcel offered by K&K Warehouse for $1 a year for the term of the lease was unanimously approved.
On other matters, England asked Tonn if problems with parking, traffic and signage at Badger Park had been resolved. Use of the playground area and traffic through the park has increased since installation of the beautiful new playground there earlier in the month. Tonn said the parking situation has improved a bit, and the handicap parking signs are up. She had previously suggested making a large parking area, but now feels they should hold off on giving up the green space that would require, and perhaps just move some of the rocks back, which would add about 15 new spaces. She said people coming to the park can also park in the school football field parking lot. They also may add signs to encourage use of the parking area by the pump house.
Tonn also suggested buying some moveable speed bumps, or at least one to place near the crossing from the restrooms near the main park entrance. Decision was to look into refurbishing one of the old portable speed bumps. Malke suggested the speed bumps would be a good project for the Peshtigo Community Foundation to fund, and Tonn said she will get prices and look for grants.
The committee approved Tonn’s recommendation to get coded key pad locks for the campground showers. She said foundry workers are showering there after work, and creating rust stains on the floor and walls of the newly refurbished showers.  The motion approved authorized Tonn to spend up to $400 to buy the two locks needed, with the money to come from either the Parks Capital Improvement Fund or from elsewhere in her budget. Before the vote, Berman commented that on her recent trip to Alaska every campground they stayed at had keyed entries to the showers to allow only registered campers to use them. She felt this also made the campers feel more secure when they were using the showers.
On the mowing concerns, Tonn said she sometimes is out mowing personally until 8 p.m. due to the need to get it done and budget constraints that prevent her from having other employees work overtime. The department’s mowing responsibilities are spread over 27 acres throughout the city, and include water tower and other utility areas, Peshtigo Fire Museum and the Fire Cemetery, Drees Community Center, along the frontage road by the water tower and tourist information booth, and at all city buildings and parks.
Clerk/Treasurer Tammy Kasal said any mowing responsibilities transferred to the Department of Public Works would include a transfer of the money to pay for it. She suggested the Water and Sewer Utility could be billed for the mowing service on its properties.
Mark Madden said his department could help, and their larger mowers could do the work faster, but would not produce the manicured look that is required in some areas. Malke asked the committee to take  good look at which department is responsible for what tasks, and asked everyone to work as a team for now to get the work done.
Tonn said she has a good working relationship with Madden and both departments have a great staff. They worked together on re-doing the restrooms and other projects.
She asked the committee to take a look at what her department is doing with its limited manpower, and advise her on how much she should budget for the mowing.
Madden said when he worked on the mowing job before going to work for the Public Works Department he found it was a full  time, 40-hour as week job.
Malke complimented Tonn and her staff for doing a great job, and noted that had included redoing both restrooms and getting the new playground installed in addition to all their other responsibilities.
Kasal said Council can give Ttonn all the money they want, but added, “’s got to come from somewhere.”
Kasal noted that one of the reasons for buying the new automated garbage trucks was the time saved, and wondered if some mowing time could be absorbed by the Public Works Department.
Berman suggested hiring a contractor to maintain the Fire Cemetery.
Malke and England agreed time spent on the museum and fire cemetery is an investment for the city, since both bring tourists to the city, and the city does own the property.
Tonn was asked to get additional quotes for grinding stumps, with and without removing the debris. She had a quote from Frank’s Logging of $3,800 to grind 20 stumps, but her crew would have to do all the cleanup work.
Bills approved for payment included one from Mike Frievalt for a total of $961.32 for automatic cameras. Tonn said trucks had knocked down some overhead lines and a camper coming in had taken down some camera cables. Frievalt had re-located the cameras and had worked with the people who were re-doing the lighting from those incidents and to light the larger new playground. Tonn said he will need to move some cameras again in November after some final work is done.
Tonn said Badger Park campground hosts Mike and Cindy will be leaving on Tuesday, Oct. 4. There is to be a chili cookout at the park on the weekend of Oct. 1, and the Halloween Trunk or Treat event is set for Saturday, Oct. 8.
Tonn also said due to some vandalism over the weekend she was closing the restrooms behind the new playground.


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