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Hudson's oldest park continues to shine

Caring for the flowers in Prospect Park is a labor of love for Kathy Kuhn. She's standing in one of the park's two flower beds, surrounded by blooming woodland sunflowers, chrysanthemums and lavender phlox. Photo by Randy Hanson

No one is more pleased with the recent improvements to Prospect Park than Kathy Kuhn.

The seasonal, part-time city employee in charge of caring for the Prospect's flower beds and flowerpots says that while it's perhaps the city's oldest park, it's also one of the best.

"I love this park," Kuhn said on a recent weekday morning. She was pruning dead blooms from wave petunias in a giant planter on the giant stairway descending from the top of Liberty Hill to the park pavilion and playground.

"It's so private. It's so natural," she said. "We want the gardens to reflect that. We don't want bright, showy Disneyland gardens. We want peaceful perennial-type gardens here for the people to enjoy."

Kuhn is pleased that a $53,579 Stewardship Program grant the city received earlier this year from the state requires the money to be spent developing "nature-based, outdoor recreation" in the park.

She's also happy with the city's 2006 decision to re-purchase the roughly six-acre site of the old Hudson Memorial Hospital that was demolished when the new hospital was built.

"The whole thing about it coming back to being parkland is what's so marvelous," Kuhn said, recalling the 1920s when a summer kitchen and dining hall, bandstand and dance pavilion stood on Liberty Hill.

The hill and park are at the west end of Wisconsin Street, part of a bluff overlooking the St. Croix River valley.

The city donated part of the land to the hospital to encourage its construction in 1953. It bought it back for a little more than $1 million.

The city's Public Works Department used some of the state grant money to install walking paths on the slope between the top of the bluff and Third Street.

The entrance to the paths lies a short distance south of the scenic overlook of the city and river. The path divides partway down the hill, with one trail leading to the old steel stairway that descends to Third Street. The other branch ends just above the new water department facility on the Third Street Hill.

A cement pad has been installed at a newly created opening in the trees along the second path. Soon a bench will be placed there, providing a resting spot with a view.

According to Tom Zeuli, director of the city's Public Works and Parks Department, volunteers from Hudson's Rotary Clubs have been involved in clearing invasive buckthorn trees from the parkland.

Kuhn sees much potential for continued beautification of Prospect Park.

"As I say, I'm a real proponent for keeping it natural - keeping it as a get-away park," she said.

Kuhn has been caring for Prospect Park's flowers for the past eight summers or so. She also has space in the Abigail Page Antique Mall in downtown Hudson.

She works an average of about eight to 10 hours a week during the summer weeding, pruning and watering the flowers in the two main gardens, beneath the park sign and in the stairway pots.

She lives just a few houses away on Wisconsin Street. "I walk over here pretty often just to check on things," she said.

It was the end of the season for flowers, but the woodland sunflowers, petunias, dahlias, chrysanthemums, asters and threadleaf coreopsis were still in bloom.

A handful of mothers were watching about a dozen preschool children playing on the playground equipment.

Kuhn said the pavilion is a popular spot for family reunions, graduations and even weddings. It has running water and electricity, and can be reserved for a fee.

The lookout point on the bluff top is the most frequent location for wedding ceremonies, she said. There are rental companies that will provide chairs and other amenities for the ceremonies.

"I've seen some really elaborate ones," Kuhn said.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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