Floating through the valley

Eau Claire City Council member proposes a new concern for summer events

Story by Katy Macek, Copy Editor

As plans went into play for Jammin’ in the Valley, an annual summer concert event, Eau Claire City Council raised a new concern about the location.

Council member Monica Lewis said — with a few chuckles from other members — floaters on the Chippewa River could sneak into the concert series from the water.

Lewis said as a member of the council, it is her job to look at access points for events like this, evaluate security and raise concerns.

“Because there was water on that side, and I happen to like to be on the water, it came to mind,” Lewis said. “If you take a look at the topography there, that is one of the local sites that I think people can get down to and get into the river.”

Jammin’ in the Valley is one event in Eau Claire’s larger Taste of the Valley bash.

In previous years, both events were held at Phoenix Park. This year, the concert will be held in Haymarket parking lot on the corner of Eau Claire Street and Graham Avenue. Taste of the Valley will stay in Phoenix Park.

Lewis said floaters could enter the lot from the river, and it’s important all aspects of the concert be considered.

It’s possible people could be on the river, hear music and want to see what’s going on, so it is important that event organizers are prepared for that, she said.

But based on the current weather, Lewis said she’s not sure too many people would be out

“When you take a look now at the date (May 31) … and the snow we have on the ground, it might be some really hardy people who want to be in tubes that time of the year,” she said.

Phil Fieber, city public works director and head of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, said he isn’t too concerned about floaters entering the parking lot that day.

“I suppose you could get over there by inner tube, or you know submarine, or some other aircraft carrier,” Fieber said. “There’s 27 miles of waterfront access, you could probably try to get in there, but I don’t think the event organizers are really worried about it.”

To his knowledge, Fieber said there have never been issues with people sneaking into summer events via waterfront. The only time security was ever placed on the river was when President Obama was campaigning in Eau Claire and the United States Secret Service had patrol boats in the water.

However, he said there are other concerns with holding an event so close to the waterfront, and they do need to be taken seriously.

“I’d be more concerned with people who are at the concert and it was a really hot day and they’d been drinking and they wanted to go jump in the water to cool off,” he said. “That, to me, would be a dangerous situation.”

Fieber said it is important for the event organizers to be aware of what’s happening down by the water, floaters aside, in order to ensure the safety of those attending.

“They’re prepared to do that,” he said. “I think they have a good plan for monitoring the event all the way around, whether it’s on land or by sea.”