Behind the building in the photo (above) is a beautiful sunrise coming up over wooded bluffs that rise from the banks of the Wisconsin River. A morning fog drifts along with the flow of the open water as waterfowl feed in the mist. On a small island covered in brush and a few tall trees bald eagles roost in the high branches looking for food below as they warm themselves in the morning sun.
Sadly the most direct views of “Eagle Island” are blocked by vacant windows, “for lease” billboards and realty signs. I drive through the dark shadow of this building every morning and I can’t help wonder why the city famous for “Eagle Watching Days”, the Gateway to the Lower Wisconsin Riverway would allow such a development in the absolute best viewing access to its famous bald eagles? Seems counterintuitive to me.
A bit further down the same street in Sauk City you’ll come across an open area with a few historic buildings placed along the riverbank. This is a spot where I’ve walked and biked many times. It’s a great place to photograph geese and other waterfowl as well. It’s also one of the few iconic “manmade” views in the community. I’ve taken many photos of the historic schoolhouse surrounded in the many changing moods of the Wisconsin river which is easily visible in the background. There’s nothing quite like the view of nature and history sharing a sunrise.
Of course, there are many people who don’t see the value in open spaces. Not when there is a profit to be made in high rent offices, condos and the like (If you can fill them that is!). In Sauk City there is a plan moving forward to move these historic buildings once again and sell off the land to a developer. As you can imagine this means a lot of disagreement in the community and for good and obvious reasons. When I was asked recently to share my thoughts, my gut feeling was, “This isn’t my fight.” Still, the one thing that keeps going through my mind is the thought that there is nothing new under the sun. In every polluted waterway and blighted riverfront in every city across america, in every one of those communities where people are now trying clean and rejuvenate.. it all started right here; A small community on the river making decisions about what to do with “valuable” waterfront real estate. Over and over again, city leaders went for the perception of fast money and created the blight that their grandchildren had to clean up later. The shortview nearly always trumping the long.
I can’t say what the right decision is in this case. There are too many variables. I don’t have enough information. What I can say is that I drive in the shadow of that dark, partially vacant office/condo every morning and it’s a cold, dark, depressing section of an otherwise enjoyable drive through a small, riverside town. I can easily imagine what will happen if it were allowed to be repeated over and over again. Just take a drive through any urban center’s concrete canyons.
Maybe a little historic park, with a couple diminutive buildings, a park for everyone and a place for outdoor community events is a better option. Maybe it’s more valuable to the community right now, as is. Certainly a city that prides itself on its river, its history and its wildlife need to really think this one through. The last thing you want to do is too quickly sell off another slice of your beautiful, riverside sunrise. Once its gone, you’ll never get it back.
- Historic Park To Be Relocated?
- Sauk City Historic Preservation Group
- Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway
- Sauk Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce