History in the paving


UTILITY WORK IS underway along South Lawson Drive, as the Green Lake community prepares for the reconstruction. Aaron Becker photo

One of the Green Lake community’s oldest roads will see a makeover soon

by Aaron Becker
aaronb@riponprinters.com

Roadwork is well underway on one of the Green Lake community’s most historic thoroughfares.

A portion of South Lawson Drive will have a new, smooth surface by early summer.

The reconstruction spans about a mile, from Highway 23 to Maplewood Drive. It’s a joint effort between the city of Green Lake and the town of Brooklyn, as the stretch encompasses both municipalities.

South Lawson Drive — named after Victor and Jessie Lawson, who in 1888 founded and developed the farm/estate that eventually became the Green Lake Conference Center — is perhaps one of the most historic roads in the community.

“I would believe so; it dates all the way back to the Lawsons,” Mayor Jon McConnell said, adding the roadway also served as the original Highway 23 going through Green Lake.

According to “A Heritage History of Beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin” by Robert and Emma Heiple: “In 1912, the ‘Big Road’ to Green Lake was begun. This roadbed ran from the old Kelm School to the Causeway bridge, and on down to the Chicago Northwestern depot. It was built for the convenience of the Lawsons and as a favor to the area farmers. Upon its completion in 1914, Lawson deeded it to the state of Wisconsin, and it became State Highway 23. The new macadam road [a type of road construction] was called ‘Lawson Drive.’”

It remained the highway for a half-century.

“I think 1965 is when 23 was bypassed around the city,” McConnell said.

The upcoming reconstruction hit an early snag. The plans announced last summer showed a potential loss of many trees along the road, which drew sharp criticism from a packed information meeting in August.

However, that initial uproar eased after the city took a harder look at the plans and made some adjustments.

“Our trees were removed,” McConnell said. “It went very well. I haven’t heard anything negative at all about it. There may be a few bare spots, but we will be addressing that with planting new trees.”

McConnell explained the city made efforts to minimize the loss of natural beauty.

“There weren’t very many healthy trees that we had to take down,” he said. “We saved a lot of those, or as many as we could, just by changing the scope of the work [including modifying the lay of some ditches]. We didn’t want to lose any more trees than we had to.”

Tree removal was minimized  on the town’s side as well.

“I believe it was seven trees.” Town Chairman Mike Wuest said. “If you drive down there today, you’ll hardly tell the difference.

“[The city] took a few trees down for us, and we took a few trees down for them.”

The roadwork is rebuilding the crumbling surface and improving drainage issues as well.

Both governments have approved bids for the project. The city’s cost is $365,882, in addition to the engineering fees, tree removal and tree planting.

“Actually the numbers were better than expected, but some of that is due to oil prices dropping considerably,” McConnell said.

Brooklyn saved some money doing in-house engineering. The town has approved a total bid of $198,313 for two projects — the South Lawson Drive reconstruction and also a reconstruction of Spaulding Hill from Brooklyn G to the bridge.

The Spaulding Hill project is expected to start around the first of June.

The South Lawson Drive reconstruction began in early April. Completion is estimated at early June.

Both leaders said the city and town had good cooperation throughout the planning process.

“It’s been really fantastic,” McConnell said. “Mike [Wuest] and I speak at least a couple times a week, not just about the South Lawson Drive project, but just staying in touch.

“The coordination between the two has been really good.”

Wuest agreed.

“[McConnell] and I worked together with [Green Lake city Public Works Director] Glen [McCarty], and what we did was, we just sat down and coordinated our bid dates and all that stuff, so we were pretty much on the same page when we did the letting and then the bid opening and then the approval,” Wuest said. “We were hoping to do it all as one project, which it turned out to be, so when we pave, we pave right on through.”

Some infrastructure is being replaced as well.

“Alliant [Energy] is installing a new gas main,” McConnell said. “The one that was there was apparently pretty old, so they’re just putting a new one in before the construction starts.”

In addition to the new, smooth surface, the roadway will see another change after construction: a reduced speed limit in the town, from 35 miles per hour to 25, to match the city’s side. It will take effect after the construction.

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