We are on the move! Big projects are currently in the works, greatly altering the landscape while enhancing Portage as a great place to live, play and work. These projects will better position Portage to attract new residents along with enriching the lives of current citizens.
The third phase of canal restoration, from Adams Street to the Canadian Pacific Railroad bridge – a 3,600-foot stretch – hadn’t been dredged in nearly a century (photo at right courtesy Entact LLC). Restoration of this section was completed in October 2021.
This included dredging and cleanup of the nearly three-quarter mile section of the Portage Canal. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources provided $4.3 million to cover the cost of the work.
The canal, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a navigable waterway, though it hasn’t been used in that capacity since 1951. The first phase of the rehabilitation project, the west end of the canal and lock, was completed in 2007.
The second phase of restoration, between DeWitt Street and Adams Street, was completed around 2018, nearly the same time the Columbia County Administration buildings that line that portion of the canal were completed.
COMPLETED OCTOBER 2020 – The Portage Service Club Association (PSCA), noted for the successful campaign to bring a Splash Pad to reality, has seen its next goal through – a pavilion at Pauquette Park. The beautiful signature park in Portage, Pauquette Park serves as the photographic setting for many weddings, reunions and graduations.
The pavilion provides cover from the elements and attracts families to the community who will stay, shop and eat after watching events. The project also included an expansion of the Ice Age Trail and upgrades to the restroom shelter.
New playground equipment was installed in several parks, including Pauquette Park. Collipp-Worden Park not only received a nice upgrade in playground equipment, but also some new basketball courts, including a Dream Court.
The tennis and basketball courts, combined with the Frisbee golf course, positions Collipp-Worden as one of the top parks when considering the variety of recreational opportunities.
Silver Lake Beach and Sunset Park underwent new playground projects–thanks to a matching grant from the Lenz Charitable Trust to fund $100,000 worth of playground structures at the two parks.
A local chapter is working with its parent organization, the Boys and Girls Club of West-Central Wisconsin. The hope is to start after-school programming soon. That might include a homework group for students; a program on how to manage your finances; teaching students how to garden and much, much more!
The Portage club has a need for volunteers to help with fundraising to create a permanent location here. Interested in helping? Email email@example.com.
Stay tuned for future updates on the status of the Boys and Girls Club.
Phase three construction on the Portage Family Skate Park is nearly complete. The first phase of the skate park, located at adjacent to the Splash Pad at Goodyear Park, was completed in July 2016 with its concept derived from the sport of curling.
For more information on the project, contact Kyle at 608-697-5960.
An ambitious plan to reshape the Columbia County Fairgrounds is underway. The multi-phase process includes new lighting and fencing, relocation of the softball diamonds, moving existing buildings, and refurbishing the historic grandstands.
The non-profit organization Save the Grandstand, Inc. is seeking to raise the funds required to refurbish the grandstand at the Columbia County Fairgrounds. For more information, contact Nancy Kruse at 608-617-8204.
For more information about the overall project, call the Portage Parks and Recreation Department at 608-742-2178.
COMPLETED 2022 – The Fort Winnebago Surgeons Quarters underwent a restoration to replace the chinking between the logs on the walls of the Surgeons Quarters cabin. The current chinking was done during initial restoration efforts after the Daughters of the American Revolution purchased the cabin in 1939 and before it opened as a museum in 1954. Work began in April 2021 and is scheduled to end in 2023. The first year of the project, in which Laib Restoration worked on the east and south walls of the cabin, is now complete.
In addition to removing the chinking, Laib Restoration is replacing any sections of the logs that are exhibiting advanced signs of deterioration with new tamarack wood sections. The wood was supplied by the DAR, is cut to size by the workers with machine tools, and then distressed with traditional tools in order to make the new sections resemble the cabin’s historical hand-hewn logs. Also, the white vertical boards on the cabin’s corners are being removed, as they were not part of the cabin’s original 19th-century structure, but were added later in the cabin’s history.
For more information, please visit the Restoration page.
In June 2020, the newest mural was installed on the south wall of the Cottonwood Bar & Grill, 312 DeWitt St., in downtown Portage. The mural depicts the label from Eulberg Brewing Company’s Picnic Beer. The brewery, once located in downtown, closed in 1958.
Kelly Meredith painted this mural, making it the third mural she has painted in this Portage series. This is the sixth mural in the art form of traditional mural painting done since 2012. Meredith’s prior murals depict three distinct eras of automobiles and gas stations (NAPA Auto Parts, 125 E. Edgewater St.) and the early people of Portage (Wilz Hometown Pharmacy, 140 E. Cook St.).
Other mural locations with artist in parenthesis: DAAR Engineering, 151 E. Cook St. (Chris Dreyer); 806 Silver Lake Dr. (Charles Bradley); and another at the former U.S. Bank drive-up at 212 W. Edgewater St. (Charles Bradley).
Thank you to the Business Improvement District, City of Portage Tourism, Portage Parks and Recreation and Tyler Hoel of H & M Contracting.
Phase I of construction is complete, visible by the new roof and much less visible structural improvements. Phase II construction, completed in February 2020, includes improved ADA accessibility on the Adams Street side of the building, along with an ADA restroom, enlarged foyer, and new flooring in the theatre and gallery.
The end of May 2022 brought about new LED lighting throughout the PCA, thanks in part to a grant by the Lenz Charitable Trust. And, now, you can help put Phase III in motion, which will involve a new backstage wing for enhanced stage access and improved storage, as well as a remodeled sound and light booth. New stage curtains are in store as well.
Donate online today, or mail in your gift to PCA at PO Box 866 in Portage, WI 53901.
COMPLETED MAY 2019 – The Portage Lions Club worked hard to raise funds for a bubbler at the Splash Pad at Goodyear Park, providing refreshment to the kids and adults who frequent the park.
COMPLETED JUNE 2018 – A $150 million project at the energy plant to install a catalytic reduction system at the Columbia Energy Center, just south of Portage.
A ribbon cutting ceremony on July, 14, 2014 signaled the completion of a prior $627 million project to install emissions-reduction technology ahead of schedule and under budget, reducing sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by more than 90%.
For more information, visit alliantenergy.com or call 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268).
COMPLETED, JULY 4, 2013–The Portage Service Club Association saw its goal through! Centrally located in Goodyear Park, the Splash Pad is designed for young children and families. Benches, a shade structure, and a park shelter with restrooms have recently been added.
The Splash Pad will bring many families to the community who will stay, shop and eat.
Avid bikers can rejoice! The Portage Business Improvement District and Portage Parks & Recreation Department installed bike racks in downtown and in parks around town.
Two colors were chosen for the racks — black for the downtown racks and green for the park racks. The invitation for cyclists to come to Portage and our county is wide open as Columbia County boasts a system of bike loops, including four loops that pass through Portage. Bike loop maps are available in the Chamber office.
Those enjoying the summer sun at Silver Lake Beach will notice a couple upgrades. The construction of a new Silver Lake Beach shelter, featuring a concession area, changing rooms and storage area, was completed in 2012. A new retaining wall was constructed to replace the old wall in 2015.
COMPLETED IN OCTOBER 2013 – The reconstruction of the Wisconsin River watch house located along the levee walkway.