Public input sessions help ease tensions over use of old fish lab at Riverside Park, La Crosse official says

Fish Hatchery Public Input Meeting
Renovations are in process on the former fisheries lab at Riverside Park. (News 8 Now photo)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The roiled waters around potential uses of the old fish control laboratory in Riverside Park appear to be calming after several public input sessions.
The six public meetings generated “constructive feedback” on the building on the north side of the park, said Dan Trussoni, the city’s parks, forestry building and parks manager.
Trussoni updated the Parks Board Thursday on the status of the plans, which had propelled controversy and prompted the Common Council to delay a rezoning request to shift from a public/semi-public district to commercial from August until October.
Some residents objected to Hatchery LLC’s plans to use the building as a wedding venue, with an AirBnB on the second floor. They raised concerns about possible restricting use of the park and parking, among other things.
Suggestions at one of the public sessions included perhaps blocking off parts of the year for community groups to use the park and having Sister City delegations stay in the AirBnB, if that plan comes to fruition, Trussoni said.
Other suggestions included using the building as a museum or art gallery, he said.
Representatives of Hatchery LLC “are open to any idea,” Trussoni said.
Concerns also were raised about the impact of development on community partners such as Rotary Lights and Riverfest, as well as the Riverside International Friendship Gardens, he said.
Hatchery LLC representatives have met with officials of such ventures and gained their support, he said.
“When we started this, we wanted something the whole community could use,” he said.
Trussoni downplayed the parking concerns, noting that a 600-vehicle municipal parking ramp is nearby.
Any proceeds the city gains from leasing the facility will be invested in Riverside Park and the international gardens, he said.
An interesting factoid that one public session attendee brought up was that the building was never a fish hatchery, Trussoni said, and fish lab is a more accurate moniker because it was a government laboratory for studying fish.
Work on the city’s $500,000 restoration of the building is on track to return the exterior to its appearance in 1929, Trussoni said. Cement being poured for a new entry will make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. New windows are expected to be installed by mid December, he said.

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