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Grandad Bluff overlook to close later this month

Million dollar renovation begins

By Katie Tucker
On May 4, 2011

This summer one of La Crosse's most popular attractions will be closed. Starting late May, the Granddad Bluff overlook will be shut down for a million dollar renovation.  

The project will stabilize the south slope of the bluff, restore the shelter to its original 1932 appearance, resurface the overlook, and restore native vegetation. Plans include upgrading the entire site to be more handicapped accessible, replacing the current fence with new railings and seeding authentic native prairie grass.

Aesthetic updates are also planned.  The primary overlook will have a cantilevered table top and amenities such as permanent benches will be installed.  According to La Crosse Park and Recreation Superintendent Garland Amunson, provisions are being made to adapt to the UW-La Crosse "L" so that it will be more visual pleasing than it's current placement on the roof.  Minnesota Public Radio has moved their antenna to Minnesota and old radio towers adjacent to the parking lot along worn down cement building have already been removed. According to Amunson, this makes the site less cluttered.

The La Crosse Park and Recreation Department feels this project could not be coming at a better time. On April 27, a chunk of the south side portion of the overlook collapsed due to erosion. The eight foot section of foundation gave away and fell to a ravine below. The main lookout was also closed about two years ago due to severe erosion.

"Erosion has taken its toll on the faces of the bluff. Its time that the outlook should be updated and made more accessible," Amunson said. No major upgrades or renovations have been done to the site since 1931.

According to the State of Wisconsin Tourism Group, the Grandad Bluff lookout is ranked as the second most popular outlook in the state. The outlook is also the number one tourist attraction in the City of La Crosse.

 "Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this project is that it will make the city proud of their facilities. The upgrades will add enjoyment for the citizens of La Crosse, their visitors and other tourists from all over the world. The completed project will be well worth the wait," Amunson said.

Despite the overlook closure, there are still plenty of spots to view the Coulee Region scenery. Bikers and motorists can travel along Wisconsin's Great River Road that stretches 250 miles of Wisconsin's western border. The road is nestled between the river and the bluffs.  The Wisconsin DNR maintains the Great River State Trail, which runs through Onalaska and Trempealeau. The 24-mile trail that was built on an abandoned railroad line travels through prairies and backwaters of the upper Mississippi River valley. The trail is suitable for walkers and bicycles, as well as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Amunson's favorite lookout spot includes the view from County Road FA, across from the weather ball.

The renovation project is being paid for through grants and city funds. The City of La Crosse Parks and Recreation received a $450,000 grant for of Urban Park Development through the Department of Natural Resources.  The bluff is expected to be closed through the end of October.


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