Friends in high places

Volunteer group has long history of supporting High Cliff State Park

Posted on Sep 27, 2019 :: For the love
Posted by Casey Britten

A mother of four kids, including a son in a wheelchair, Kim Stumpf is always looking for opportunities to spend time outdoors together as a family.

“When we go to a park, we want a park where all the kids can play,” she says. “If the park isn’t ADA-accessible, we won’t even choose to go there.”

Fortunately for the Stumpf family, who live just outside of Sherwood, a state-of-the art ADA-accessible playground will be built this fall at nearby High Cliff State Park on the northeastern shore of Lake Winnebago.

“We need to travel to go to parks, so to have an ADA-accessible park near home would be great,” Stumpf adds.

Funded by the Friends of High Cliff State Park (FOHC), the new playground will be installed in the upper level of the park near the observation tower, replacing the deteriorating 45-year-old playground. It will be located closer to the existing public restrooms and water fountains, which will also be upgraded along with a sidewalk connecting the restrooms to the playground. Amenities will include a variety of ADA-accessible play activities for kids, including a low-impact, low-maintenance play surface.

“Our role is to help support High Cliff through educational programs, stewardship and park improvements,” says Paul Stelter, FOHC president. “We’re completely privately financed. All of our funding comes from donations, membership fees and fundraisers.”

Established in 1997, the nonprofit volunteer organization takes on a variety of projects ranging from hosting fundraisers to organizing in-park events.

For the past year, the focus has been updating the playground, Stelter says. In June, the group received a $100,000 grant for the project from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. That donation brings the group within reach of its fundraising goal of $175,000.

“This is the largest donation the Friends group has ever received, and it’s certainly one of the bigger projects we’ve been involved with,” Stelter says. “We are thankful to the Nelson family and to the Community Foundation for their support. The grant put us in a position where we’re confident that we’ll be able to raise the rest of the money with good support from the community.”

Construction on the park will begin this year with plans to have it open in time for next summer.

High Cliff State Park isn’t unique in having a “Friends Of” organization that supports activities and projects; most state parks have similar programs in place. Each year, Friends groups provide thousands of volunteer hours to support state parks across Wisconsin.

At High Cliff, FOHC has focused on helping fund park positions and ongoing improvement projects, including equipment purchases, habitat restoration and facility repairs. In addition, FOHC hosts regular events at the park such as the upcoming Halloween campground walk, fishing clinics, cleanup days and educational workshops.

Volunteers can also be found chopping firewood, planting trees and picking up litter. All the projects have one thing in common: keeping High Cliff beautiful and available to everyone.

“This project is a great example of how the Friends come together to enhance people’s experiences in using High Cliff State Park,” Stelter says. “The park has a lot to offer. The Friends help make it even more special, and in the case of this playground, accessible to more people.”

For Stumpf’s family, the efforts are appreciated. “High Cliff State Park offers so much more than your average park,” she says. “Families can spend time there swimming, boating, hiking and playing together. (The playground) is going to be a great addition.”

FOHC membership is open to anyone who enjoys the park, Stelter says.