The Geneva Lake Conservancy recently purchased 5.1 acres in Williams Bay with a generous donation from the Jack Rohner family. The vacant land will be used to create a children’s fishing park in honor of Mr. Rohner’s late wife, Helen.
The land is located along Highway 67 west of the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. It is bordered on the west by Southwick Creek, a trout steam that runs into Geneva Lake. The park plans call for fishing spots to be created for children along the creek, as well as a boardwalk across a wetland on the property that will connect with Kishwauketoe.
“We are so grateful to the Rohner family for their donation to preserve this land and to create a park that will encourage children to learn about the wonders of nature,” said Dennis Jordan, GLC Chairman.
Helen Rohner, who died in 2016 had been a Lake Geneva summer resident for many years. “She could still remember the World War II troops coming through Lake Geneva on the train,” said her daughter, Barbara Franke. Franke said her mother loved children. Helen Rohner’s daughter and 2 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren still spend part of their summers at Lake Geneva homes, she said.
The park will also feature “story boards” on the lifecycles of trout and include a native plant nature trail with educational signs and other nature activities. A small barn on the property will be painted with a large brown trout that are the predominant fish in Southwick Creek. In the future, the barn may also be restored for a variety of children’s activities. “This park will not only provide new activities for children, it will also help draw families and other visitors to Williams Bay to learn about the health of our fisheries and the importance of protecting aquatic habitat,” said Karen Yancey, GLC Executive Director.
In conjunction with the purchase, the GLC will work with the Village of Williams Bay and Kishwauketoe on their plans to reroute Southwick Creek to make it easier for trout to reach their spawning grounds further north on the creek. The Conservancy plans to ask for volunteer assistance from a variety of civic and community groups as it develops the park. “The Conservancy holds a conservation easement on Kishwauketoe and hopes to work with their volunteers to interweave children’s activities and create an extension of the hiking trails and native habitats at Kishwauketoe,” said Yancey.
The current timetable calls for a dedication of the park to be held on Memorial Day weekend, 2018.