Duke Behnke | Appleton Post-Crescent
APPLETON – When the Trout Museum of Art announced last week that it no longer would consider Ellen Kort Peace Park as the site of its new museum, opponents of the plan breathed a sigh of relief.
“We’re all having some glasses of wine and having little parties here and there,” said Christine Williams, a former Common Council member and one of the administrators of the Save Ellen Kort Peace Park Facebook group, which has more than 1,000 members.
The Trout Museum, meanwhile, has turned its attention to finding a different site for its museum, and elected officials are left to ponder the role they played in the process.
Why did the Trout Museum suddenly change course?
After the council voted 8-7 in October to allow the Trout Museum to proceed with a site analysis of the Peace Park, the museum hired Westwood Professional Services to conduct a Phase I environmental study.
The park property is known to be contaminated with coal tar, but the contamination is capped and subject to ongoing monitoring by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Park developments such as trails, lights and benches don’t necessarily disturb the contaminated soils beneath the cap, but constructing a 30,000-square-foot museum carries a larger risk.
A statement by the Trout Museum said the environmental study “indicates there may be a greater than expected financial and regulatory burden related to the site’s cleanup, beyond the known history of the site.”
While the announcement of the decision was abrupt, there were signs that the Peace Park had fallen out of favor as the museum’s preferred site. References to the Peace Park had been scrubbed from the museum’s New Building Project webpage weeks earlier.