All Sparta parks are open to the public, resident and non-resident alike, but some properties, because of their smaller size and more limited facilities, are more likely to attract visitors from the immediate surrounding neighborhood.
Golf Course – 150 acres – This 18 hole, 6,187 yard, par 72 course is built on part of the grounds of the former Wisconsin Children’s Center, owned by the City for many years, and called Memorial Park. The course nearly surrounds Perch Lake. The course is owned and operated by the City and the philosophy is to keep the greens fees as low as practical to encourage use and play by the general public. There are electric carts available for rent, or personal carts may be kept and used at the course. A private contractor operates a club house with restaurant, bar, and a small pro shop in a city owned building. There is also a driving range. For more information on the golf course, you may visit the golf course’s website.
Perch Lake – Although Perch Lake is one of the principal features of the Golf Course, Memorial Park, and Fisherman’s Park, it also is a unique feature in its own right. It has 32 surface acres with a maximum depth of ten feet and a mean depth of five feet. It was created by damming the La Crosse River. Most of the land around the lake is City owned except for one private home and a VFW clubhouse. The Lake has a native fishery of warm water pan fish, largemouth bass, northern pike, and some brown and rainbow trout, all of which is supplemented by stocking as recommended by fishery management professionals. The Lake was last dredged in 2000.
City Biking Hiking Trails Along Beaver Creek
Bicycling / Hiking / Rollerskating – The City’s existing bike trail system is approximately 6,000 feet long. The bicycle facilities begin at Howard Huff Park with a bicycle lane being marked on Water Street, extending north across the bridge over the La Crosse River. At this point the bicycle way leaves the street and enters the Information Center on a paved trail. It crosses under the Wisconsin Street bridge, remaining on the west side of the La Crosse River, and enters into Evans-Bosshard Park. It travels through this park to the west side of Beaver Creek, with a spur crossing the creek to the east, through the park, to East Avenue. Another spur from this spur extends south through the park and across the La Crosse River on a bicycle/pedestrian/snowmobile bridge to the Highway 16 Wayside portion of Evans-Bosshard Park. The main trail continues north through Evans-Bosshard Park, to the north boundary of the park at Main Street. The trail crosses Main Street and runs between the Rural Fire Department Building and Beaver Creek, through the parking lot behind the fire station to a ramp, constructed in 1998, to gain access to Water Street. A crossing of Water Street is made at this point, in the heart of the central business district. Within Evans-Bosshard Park the trail system is most developed, and includes bridges over both the La Crosse River and Beaver Creek.
Beaver Creek Parkway
Beaver Creek Parkway – This greenway has essentially been discussed as being an extension of Evans-Bosshard Park and is part of the trail system. It has traditionally been identified as a distinct feature in the City’s park system.
4 acres – This Park is basically a picnic park for passive recreation in an established neighborhood. Large shade trees are a dominant feature of this park, and the Civil War statue and many war monuments adds a touch of hometown established values. There is a non-regulation size ball field with backstop located in the park, which is suitable for younger players. A playground area, swings bays and some rocking animals complete this park.
2 acres –Fisherman’s Park provides a remarkably quiet park at the lower end of Perch Lake. The park has one shelter, playground apparatus, picnic tables and grills, and portable toilets during heavy use season. There is a wheelchair accessible fishing pier extending into the Lake from the park shoreline. The part of the park lying east of East Avenue is the most heavily used with the mowed turf, playground, shelter, parking, and fishing pier. West of East Avenue provides some great fishing opportunities at Farmers Valley Creek and the La Crosse River. A cement canoe launch has been added just below the Perch Lake dam.
West Side Park
2.9 acres –This park is located in the center of a residential block surrounded by houses, and is not readily visible from the surrounding streets. A vehicular drive provides access from the south, off Hill Street, and the small parking lot in the park is used seasonally as a skating rink. Permanent restroom facilities are available and the park includes an integrated play area and some wooden beam structures. There is also a ball diamond that has been improved and provides a great sheltered ball field. Because of this park’s location near two parochial schools it serves as the recess play area for both of them.
Tom Gomez Park
1.8 acres – This park is a good example of the City’s subdivision requirements for park creation as new residential areas are developed. Mr. Charles Palmer, the developer of the Pfaff subdivision has set an example for other new development. The park has a baseball backstop and 18 crimson maple trees were planted for landscaping. There is a small open side picnic shelter and tables, and playground apparatus.
Ben Bikin’ Park
2.5 acres – This park is one of the best known in Sparta, if not much of western Wisconsin, because it is the site of “Ben Biken”, a large rendition of a figure in late 19th century clothing mounted on an “ordinary”, or high front wheel bike. The location at the southeast corner of STH 16 (Wisconsin Street) and Water Street insures that good use is made of the small unstaffed shelter which has numerous maps and other tourist information posted. The park has frontage on the La Crosse River and the shoreline on both sides has been rip-rapped from the STH 16 bridge to the Water Street Bridge. The City hiking/biking trail begins at this park and extends north along the La Crosse River/Beaver Creek shoreline into Evans-Bosshard Park. Bicyclists on either the Sparta-Elroy or La Crosse River State Trails can easily reach this park, and its intracity trail, by means of local, or minor collector, City streets. In the heavy tourist season months portable toilets are placed in the park.
6 acres -The Park has exercise stations along the trail, 2 picnic shelters, picnic tables, grills, fixed benches, playground apparatus, band shell and a canoe launch site on the south side of the La Crosse River near East Avenue. This park is home to “Concerts in the Park” every Wednesday night during the summer and the Holiday in the Park during the winter months. Vehicle entrance to the Park is from East Avenue.
60 acres – This extensive recreation area is part of the grounds of the former Wisconsin Children’s Center. In the late 1970’s, the State ceased operation of the Center and it was acquired by the City. Some of the buildings on the campus like grounds have been sold to non-profit organizations for use as schools or day care centers, but the majority of the buildings and most of the acreage remains intact for direct public use. There are a wide of facilities and activities available on the 60 acre property. The Sparta/Barney Community Center, already discussed, lies within Memorial Park.
Outdoor recreation facilities at Memorial Park include:
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Baseball field-lighted, with spectator seating and scoreboard
- Softball fields-total of four, three of which are lighted, with spectator seating and scoreboards
- Concession stand serving the ball diamonds
- Basketball hoops
- Horseshoe pits, four
- Outdoor sand volleyball Courts
- Outdoor hockey rink
- Indoor hockey rink
- Skating rink
- Playground apparatus
- Picnic shelters, six
- Picnic tables, about 100
- Fire grills for picnics, ten
- Parking for approximately 350 automobiles
- Perch Lake access, boat launch ramp there is a 10 HP limit on boat motors on Perch Lake.
- Fest Grounds. The western part of Memorial Park is the site of various mass group and camping events
In the winter the entire park, including the Golf Course, is open for cross-country skiing. Memorial Park is the site of the annual Butterfest celebration.
The lake frontage, and general wide expanses of this park, with many mature trees and established landscaping from its previous use as a children’s home make it an ideal place for leisurely walking or sitting. There are many of the buildings remaining from the facility’s earlier use.
This largely undeveloped park totals over 100 acres of land. The primary entrance to the park is at the intersection of River Rd. and Apsen Blvd. The park features and improved parking lot and entrance road, Picnic Shelter and Playground that was installed in 2007. There has been extensive trout habitat improvement done in the parks along that La Crosse River that is accessible through a trail system. Future plans for the park are to continue river work and expand the walking trails system. This park will also be home to a Dog Park that will hopefully be completed during the summer of 2011.
Howard Huff Park
This small neighborhood park is just east of Water St. across from the Ben Bikin’ Information Center. The park features a playground apparatus, swing set, sand box and open grass area for picnics and ball games.