Discover park treasure
By Emily Kram
By Emily Kram
After three months as superintendent of Pattison State Park and Amnicon Falls State, Kevin Feind has come to know the two Douglas County properties well.
Perhaps a bit too well, thanks to a particularly snowy winter.
“I actually slept over here the night of a storm,” Feind said, speaking from the Pattison park office. “I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to get in the next morning. You get off the highway and there’s three feet of snow.”
Snow removal became a daily chore for Feind, but now that the snow has begun to melt, he’s turning his sights to other plans.
“These properties have some phenomenal potential,” Feind said. Between the covered bridge at Amnicon and Pattison’s Big Manitou Falls — the highest waterfall in Wisconsin — both parks have beautiful features that should draw visitors.
Outside of the immediate area, however, neither property is well known.
“My goal for the next 10 years is to make this the gem that it’s supposed to be,” Feind said.
The Department of Natural Resources gave Feind’s efforts a boost recently with a bracket-style competition on Facebook.
Amnicon Falls was named the top property this week in the Wisconsin State Park Treasures Contest. Over the course of three weeks, Facebook users voted for their favorite in a series of match-ups between 16 of Wisconsin’s lesser-known state parks.
The contest began on March 19, and in the final pairing Amnicon Falls topped Rock Island to take the title. Amnicon Falls received 409 votes, while Rock Island garnered 282 votes, according to the DNR Facebook page.
“To be able to have Amnicon Falls win the contest is such an awesome opportunity to show the rest of the state what a gem we have up here,” said Brittany Berrens, the director of marketing and social media at the Superior-Douglas County Visitor Bureau. “Hopefully the buzz that was created around this contest on Facebook will inspire a few folks to make a trip up to northwestern Wisconsin to check out Amnicon Falls State Park, as well as Pattison State Park and all the other outdoor recreation opportunities we have in the area.”
A few changes are in store for Amnicon this year, Feind said. The chief improvement is the construction of a new contact station at the state park.
No major property developments are planned for Pattison State Park this year, but many small fixes are in the works.
Feind has been the acting superintendent for Amnicon Falls and Pattison since Jan. 12. Prior to accepting the position, Feind served as a ranger at the Brule River State Forest for more than 16 years.
“Over there I oversaw the recreation and law enforcement programs, so it’s a nice carryover,” Feind said.
The Brule River State Forest draws thousands of visitors each year with its reputation for fishing and canoeing, and Feind hopes to spotlight the beauty of Amnicon Falls and Pattison in a similar way.
To further that effort, Feind has launched a photography contest.
“I want to get photos from a wide range, both scenery and activities on the properties,” he said.
The photos will be used to updated the brochures and pamphlets for both state parks, and the Friends of Pattison and Amnicon State Parks group is offering a free park admission sticker to the contest winners. A winner will be chosen for each state park.
“I’m running kind of two contests within one contest,” Feind said.
Participants do not need to be residents of Wisconsin to enter the competition. Entry forms can be obtained at either state park office or by contacting Feind via e-mail (Kevin.Feind@wisconsin.gov).
Another goal for Feind is to increase the membership of the Friends of Pattison and Amnicon Falls State Park. The group has seen dwindling numbers in recent years, but Feind is hoping for a turnaround.
On June 7, Feind plans to hold a public meeting at the Pattison State Park office to gather feedback and ideas from the local community. He encouraged anyone interested in Amnicon Falls for Pattison to attend.
“I want to re-establish a very good working relationship with the area people,” Feind said. “I’m going to be inviting all town chairs, all neighbors, so that it can be not only a meet and greet with me but a heads-up on what is going to be happening on the two properties.”
In terms of property development, Feind is looking to improve the cross-country ski trails at Pattison State Park. The Brule River State Forest is well-known for its Afterhours Trail, and Feind said he sees no reason Pattison can’t evolve into a ski destination too.
“That’s something near and dear to my heart,” Feind said. “Right now, it’s quite obvious they are grooming a hiking trail here. It’s easy to make a hiking trail out of a ski trail, but vice versa is difficult because it doesn’t groom well.
“But the ski trail, even though it’s difficult grooming it to the level I would like, it’s really pretty. That trail is just beautiful back in there.”
Improvements to the ski trails at Pattison State Park will be ongoing, Feind said, and he welcomes input from local skiers.