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Fox Lake’s Crocker Park gets new look: Playground equipment makes space more kid friendly

May 28, 2019

FOX LAKE — While a stretch of grass may have been adequate for West Crocker Street Park when it was across the street from Fox Lake High School, kids today want more.

And that’s exactly what they will get, thanks to a community effort to improve the park led by city residents Becky Bussian and Laurie Hopp.

The park, set in the middle of the city, was used as a play area when the city’s public school stood nearby on Academy Street. The school for all grades was built in 1886 and was enlarged in 1895. It served the community until 1950, when it was replaced with a new school on Depot Street (now the charter School for Agricultural and Environmental Studies).

The old school was long ago demolished and a newer home now stands on the site.

The park was long neglected after its student users had moved along. A small playground set was installed around 1990, along with some swings and a half basketball court. That basketball court, incidentally, was built using funds raised by Bussian’s daughter.

Bussian lives near the park and said that it was her daughter who around 17 years ago had approached the Fox Lake City Council to add the basketball court. Funds were raised and the court was installed.

“She got a lot of support from city officials and others. She also collected aluminum cans and got other money wherever she could,” Bussian said.

Years later, Bussian — by then a grandmother — was sitting in the park and saw the need for something more. She returned to City Hall and brought up the idea of improving the park. But there was no money in the city budget to purchase new equipment, so no action was taken.

As a result, Bussian and Hopp and their friends and relatives decided to raise the funds on their own.

Few would disagree that the park is needed.

“It’s an important place for kids in the city to play,” Hopp said. “It’s in the center of town, so most kids don’t have to cross any major roadways to get here. A lot of children remember playing baseball here. We started to raise money in December of 2017. So within a year, we raised almost $40,000.”

New equipment will be placed more in the middle of the park — to get it away from the road. Existing equipment will be kept where it stands. The plan for new features shows an array of tunnels, slides, handicapped access swings (including a “grandma swing”), ladders, monkey bars and other activities.

The equipment will be installed by volunteers on June 10, with Lee Recreation of Cambridge supervising the work. The Fox Lake American Legion post has volunteered to provide food for the volunteers on the day.

“We’ll also be adding a new picnic area as well, and there are two decorative benches that were donated by the local 4-H group,” Hopp said.

The Waupun Innovation Center at Waupun Area Junior/Senior High School will be creating a park sign.

“It’s going to be awesome with a big fox on it,” Bussian said. “MEC (Mayville Engineering Company) has been cooperating a lot to allow students to come in and learn things and use their equipment.

“There are a lot of efforts like that around the community — a lot of positive stories to tell. Everybody thinks it’s such a great idea.”

“Talk about a community pulling together,” Hopp said. “We’d like a pavilion as well. I guess we have to go find some more money for that.”

Even with the new equipment, there will be plenty of room to play games, to have a picnic or to just relax, Hopp said.

Those being recognized on a donor plaque include Beaver Dam Community Hospital Foundation, Francis & Ruth Oberreich Foundation, GlobalTech Environment Corporation, Autoflex Knott Inc., Dennis Giese, Jen-Ter Wire & Element Inc., Alliant Energy Foundation, Bill & Barb Mullin Family, Connie White Memorial, Marion Moeller Memorial, Becky Bussian, Laurie Hopp, Jodie Wiese, Kathy’s Kustom Embroidery and Friends of Fox Lake.

“This community has stepped forward to support this,” Hopp said. “It may have been something small donated for the silent auction, or a donation or grant of several thousand dollars. It all adds up.”

An Eagle Scout project raised funds for a Gaga Ball pit — something like dodgeball in a low ring structure.

“We’re marketing this park as a place for kids to come and get off their electronic devices,” Bussian said. “There were a lot of times when I wanted to quit, but the people of Fox Lake wouldn’t let me. It really is a community-wide effort.”

After they catch their breath, the campaign may start again to add even more attractions — like a pavilion.

“I did say originally that we had to go big or go home,” Bussian said. “We haven’t quite decided how big is big enough.”

“If the city keeps adding a little bit every year, we’ll end up with some pretty super parks in Fox Lake,” Hopp said.

Those who would like to donate can make checks payable to “Community Recreation Donations” with a designation of Crocker Street Park. The checks can be sent directly to the city of Fox Lake, P.O. Box 105, Fox Lake, WI 53933.

Those wanting more information can contact Bussian by email at verdynyc@yahoo.com or text her at 920-210-4958.