The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved up to $750,000 in funding for the reconstruction of Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park. The funds will be granted to the Friends of Peninsula State Park to match private donations raised by the Eagle Tower Fund.
Representative Joel Kitchens worked with Senator Frank Lasee to move the budget amendment through the JFC at its meeting on May 31.
“It was concerning when you started looking at the price tag on that if we were going to make it accessible for disabilities,” said Kitchens. “If it’s going to cost that much we need to see what we can find for funding for it. We came upon that portion of the stewardship fund that had not been used and had been available.”
The money is being allocated from the unobligated Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. The state will match every dollar of private donations up to 50 percent of the total cost with a maximum of $750,000. The Friends of Peninsula State Park have raised approximately $430,000 to date.
“This should certainly make it a lot easier for [the Eagle Tower Fund] to raise money if people know every dollar we put in, the state is going to put in another dollar,” said Kitchens.
Kitchens expects the final price tag for the tower to be somewhere between $1 million and $2 million.
“There’s still a lot of options on the table,” said Kitchens. “There’s the ramp thing, the elevator still that can be considered…. We have to work through the disabilities advocates. DNR is being really cautious because they can get sued at any time. They want to be very, very cautious about that.”
Governor Scott Walker has the ability to veto the funding when he signs the budget, but Kitchens believes the funding will survive the budget process. The budget should be finalized and signed by July 1.
“A huge thank you goes out to State Representative Joel Kitchens and Senator Frank Lasee for submitting the proposal,” said Rachel Stollenwerk, Campaign Director for the Eagle Tower Fund, in a statement. “These state funds will match private donations dollar for dollar and will significantly help us further manage additional costs we may expect to see related to accessibility components… Every dollar you donate towards the rebuilding of Eagle Tower will be matched by the State of Wisconsin.”
In the motion approved 12-4 by the JFC, Eagle Tower was just one of five projects to receive unobligated stewardship funds. The others included:
- $1 million for a grant to Iron County to rebuild Saxon Harbor marina and campground
- $1 million for the acquisition of a 13-mile long abandoned rail corridor in Racine County
- Up to $500,000 for the City of Horicon to enhance a shelter located in the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area
- Up to $415,300 or 50 percent of the costs for two pedestrian bridges across the Fox River in Neenah