Neenah plans to build stormwater pond at Douglas Park to fix flooding on South Commercial Street

As part of the deal, the city would receive $170,000 for park improvements or parkland acquisition.

Duke Behnke
Appleton Post-Crescent
Neenah's Douglas Park is located south of Galloway Co., 601 S. Commercial St.

NEENAH — City engineers have recommended using a large portion of Douglas Park to construct a $400,000 stormwater pond to prevent flooding along South Commercial Street and to handle runoff from nearby Galloway Co.

In return for the loss of parkland, $170,000 would be set aside for park improvements or parkland acquisition, though not necessarily at Douglas Park.

The $170,000 would consist of $150,000 from Galloway and $20,000 from the city stormwater utility.

The Common Council will vote on the proposed agreement Wednesday.

Parks and Recreation Director Mike Kading said he never likes to lose parkland. However, as a city official, he said he has to see the big picture, and he recognizes the need to eliminate flooding on South Commercial after rainstorms.

"It hurts to lose the land," Kading told The Post-Crescent, "but I also have to look at what the entire community need is. When we have to shut down the street because it's flooded or we have to delay access into Galloway, that hurts the community as well."

Douglas Park, at 4.3 acres, is largely hidden behind a row of houses on South Commercial and row of houses on Douglas Street. It serves as a neighborhood park and has a picnic shelter, restrooms, picnic tables, playground equipment and open space.

"Because of its location and inaccessibility, the larger community as a whole, when you talk to people, they don't even know where Douglas Park is," Kading said.

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Douglas Park once was considered for the public library

Douglas Park has been eyed for city facilities previously.

In November 1995, Neenah held an advisory referendum asking voters whether the city should build a $7.8 million public library at Douglas Park. The referendum was defeated by more than a 2-1 margin. Then in April 1998, voters approved an advisory referendum to build a $5 million library in place of the existing one at 240 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Kading said that before the library proposal, Douglas Park was considered as a site for a municipal garage.

Plans call for a stormwater pond to be built in the open area of Douglas Park.

Stormwater pond would hold runoff, remove sediment

Public Works Director Gerry Kaiser said Neenah has had long-standing issues with flooding on South Commercial.

Staff initially had envisioned a dry pond — a grassy, low area — to handle the rush of runoff following a storm, and the location of Douglas Park was suitable.

The project later development into a wet pond, which has a pool of water throughout the year. Wet ponds, like dry ponds, control peak flows of runoff but typically are able to remove more sediment and pollutants because the water stays in the pond longer.

Kaiser said the 1.5-acre pond, if approved by the council, would be built this year and be in place ahead of the 2025 reconstruction of South Commercial. It would serve the South Commercial corridor between Orange and Cecil streets and the area to the east to Higgins Avenue.

A conceptual plan outlines the proposed stormwater pond at Douglas Park.

Galloway would pay as much as $200,000 for the project

The proposed partnership with Galloway calls for the company to pay $150,000 to the stormwater utility to offset the cost of property acquisition.

The stormwater utility, in turn, would place the $150,000, plus another $20,000, into a fund for park improvements or parkland acquisition.

In addition, Galloway would provide easements at no cost to the city and pay up to $50,000 as its share of the cost to design and construct the pond. Galloway's drainage area represents about 10% of the pond's total drainage area.

According to plan, the stormwater utility would maintain the pond, which wouldn't be fenced but would be surrounded with tall grasses to deter people from entering the pond.

The stormwater utility also would install a stone trail around the pond, replace a two-bay swing set and erect a park sign along Douglas Street.

Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or dbehnke@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.