Solving the Battle of the Fish Hatchery

It has been interesting to observe the debate over rezoning and repurposing the old Fish Hatchery building in Riverside park.

An architectural and historical jewel prominently located in La Crosse’s flagship park became vacant, so the city sought proposals to rehab the building and give it new life. But when an idea was brought forward, some people reacted as if the world were ending.

Granted, the developers may have botched their sales job by using the words “wedding receptions” and “beer garden” to describe a “meeting and event space.” La Crosse has several event spaces, and this project aims to find its own niche among them.

The opposition has deployed the usual alarms about loud music and alcohol, as if beer will automatically bring herds of frat boys stampeding through the International Friendship Gardens. If residents of the nearby apartment complex are to be believed, they may never sleep again.

These may be legitimate concerns, but they don’t mesh with what I am not hearing from the opposition. I hear no complaints about Riverfest or Moon Tunes, where amplified music fills the park and alcohol is widely available.

And what about Irish Fest or Octoberfest, just a few blocks away? Those events feature an abundance of alcohol and loud music, but I hear no complaints from those who portray wedding receptions in the Fish Hatchery building as the end of civilization.

What I most want to hear from the opposition is a better idea. Unfortunately, amid all the Nimbyism and heckling, I hear no suggestions to solve the problem at hand: How do we pay for the expensive work that this building needs, and create a place that adds value to the park and the city?

An idea to solve this problem is on the table. Suggestions to refine this proposal and make it more acceptable would be helpful. Those opposed to this idea are welcome to submit ideas of their own. But shouting “NO” like a spoiled toddler is not helpful. That’s how you get banished to a corner and ignored.

One thought on “Solving the Battle of the Fish Hatchery

  1. Well said, Obbie. I found myself having similar thoughts; but less clearly articulated. The “sales job” and development of concept was done clumsily…but that doesn’t mean that the whole idea is spoiled or going to lead to a bad outcome. Plenty of public spaces exist in healthy cultures which are cherished…and which also involve alcohol, music and large group gatherings without causing problems for others. We have become exceedingly insular about our private spaces in this culture…wanting complete control and tolerating little unexpected or different…and in so doing we undermine the experience of community possible in shared and public spaces. So, I hope that the conversation can be one of exploration of positive possibilities more than mostly listing fears, potential losses, and gripes.

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