Council OKs water shows continuing at Smalley

Ski Sharks leader hopeful that solution can be found to equipment storage issue
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The Shawano Common Council signed off on a five-year use agreement with the Shawano Ski Sharks on April 10 to allow their summer water skiing shows to continue at Smalley Park.

Council members received appreciation from Ski Sharks leader Dave Passehl, who also indicated a solution to the equipment storage situation could be coming next month. This revelation came weeks after a contentious meeting of the Shawano Parks and Recreation Commission where longtime Shawano residents criticized the view from their homes of the equipment the Ski Sharks use to put on their shows.

The Ski Sharks have performed for 40 years at the area that is now called Smalley Park, with another eight years before that elsewhere in Shawano. In a letter from the group’s board of directors, it was reiterated how much the organization has given to the creation and upkeep of the park.

“At this time, we are being asked to risk damage and increase our operational costs to move and store items that are not made to be moved down a road,” according to the letter. “We are being asked to move things that are not visible by the majority of the public, and we feel that the way they are stored is in line with how other public spaces like Judd Park and Huckleberry Harbor and all other waterfront owners store their equipment during the winter months.”

Passehl noted that the complaints are not coming from any of the newer homeowners, although they’re getting the heat for those who feel the equipment storage in the park is an eyesore.

“I think it’s important to recognize that it’s long-term neighbors, not any of the neighbors part of that beautiful development that’s been built over the last year at Smalley Park,” Passehl said.

In spite of the equipment, Smalley is a beautiful park, according to Passehl, in part because of the time his organization takes to tend to its upkeep.

“This is an effort to show our pride in exchange for the ability to use that park,” he said. “I think it’s important for you to know that we’re grateful for the ability to use the site. We don’t take it for granted. We take our responsibilities very seriously.”

Passehl credited Matt Hendricks, Shawano’s park and recreation director, for being a driving force to make the park what it is today. The park was developed after ThedaCare moved its hospital from the northwest corner of Shawano down to County Road B.

“It was an overlooked park for years and years,” Passehl said, noting he’s been with the Ski Sharks for over 35 years. He added that former park and recreation director “Judy Judd was a great woman, but Smalley was a park that they didn’t really want to enhance. The beach wasn’t even a beach.”

Now, Smalley is a gem in the city, according to Passehl, and he noted that the social media support flooding in after news broke about the equipment complaints proves that.

“I think the overwhelming and resounding support of our community is quite evident,” Passehl said. “If you guys are on Facebook, you can see all of those comments. I have personally received many, many letters, many messages and many personal phone calls of support — including today at my office, people stopping in just to express their support. I tell them that I don’t feel threatened. I just feel like the meeting got a little out of hand from some people that have some personal issues that we’re trying to take care of.”

Passehl noted the complaints are being addressed by the Ski Sharks board, and he was hopeful that some solutions could be brought forward to the city as early as next month. He also expressed optimism that the group was going to have its best season yet, with opening night about two months away.

“This year is going to be awesome,” Passehl said. “It’s going to be the biggest crowds you’ve ever seen. We’re bringing Division 2 Nationals back to Shawano, and we’re going to break another Guinness World Record.”