APPLETON — High Cliff State Park would more than double in size and get $11.3 million in upgrades under a proposal by the state Department of Natural Resources.
The draft master plan calls for the addition of 1,820 acres to the 1,195-acre park on the northeast shore of Lake Winnebago. Its boundaries would extend to Wisconsin 55 to the east and Calumet County Park to the south if the state acquires the additional land — which is in the hands of more than 100 landowners — at an estimated cost of about $9.1 million.
High Cliff, one of the state’s smaller parks, is Wisconsin’s fifth busiest, bringing in about 417,000 visitors annually, said Carolyn Morgen, park superintendent.
“What happens is the property just gets used a lot, it gets loved a lot,” Morgen said. “We would love to be able to expand and offer people more recreational opportunities.
“It is exciting. We also understand that it is for willing sellers only and it’s going to be a long process.”
The public can hear about the plan and comment on the park’s future at a May 7 meeting at the Sherwood Community Center. The master plan will be submitted to the state’s natural resources board for approval in June, Morgen said. Plans for specific projects will be drawn up once the master plan is approved.
While the park expansion could take years, work on upgrades to the park’s dated infrastructure and facilities could begin soon. Repairs to the park’s showers could start as early as this year, Morgan said.
Other projects, including a $1.5 million expansion of the family campground, will be prioritized based on need and available funds.
Morgen said it likely will take three to five years before bigger projects — such as the estimated $5.5 million marina upgrade — appear on the construction calendar. Funding can hold up the timeline, but projects can be paid for with state dollars, grants and donations, she said.
“I think there is a lot right now, and I think a lot of what happens with High Cliff is going to depend on the economy,” Morgen said. “If we have to wait for state funds, they’ll just get pushed back.”
High Cliff State Park’s last master plan was approved in 1982. It is supposed to be revised every 10 to 15 years once the plan’s goals are met, Morgen said.
The draft master plan calls for High Cliff to share a border with Calumet County Park and offers options to connect the two parks if complete land acquisition does not occur.
Frank Wasdovitch, Calumet County Parks Department director, said plans to connect the two parks through a trail system have been in the works for about a decade, but have stalled in recent years.
“We think it would be beneficial for both parks to be connected so there is an off-road type trail so people could safely go between the two parks,” Wasdovitch said.
The park’s northern neighbors are optimistic that plans for park expansion and improvements would increase business in Sherwood, said Village President Jim Rath. A portion of the state park is within the village’s boundaries, he said.
“We hope to have visitors spend more time and become a true destination for the people visiting High Cliff State Park,” said Rath, who plans to attend the May 7 meeting to learn more about the proposals. “The park is a treasured asset of the area.”