UWO officials look to improve Shapiro Park

Sarah Zander

A University historical marker was unveiled at Shapiro Park on Wednesday to replace the old, decayed wood sign that stood previously. According to Stephen Kercher, chairman of the history department, this is the third historical marker to be placed on campus, including one at Dempsey Hall and one at Swart Hall. The marker was uncovered on the 45th anniversary of the original dedication of Shapiro Park, previously known as the University’s “Peoples’ Park,” and the first Earth Week. Kercher said this event sparks a five-year plan in preparation for the 50th anniversary to rededicate and renovate Shapiro Park, which is located in between the Fox River and the Sage Hall parking lot. “The park hasn’t done very well lately,” Kercher said, “It’s been sort of forgotten [and] people walk by there and have no idea that it’s a park or the history of the park.” Kercher said a new path is being built to make the park more inviting to those walking along the trails by the river. On Wednesday, children from Jacob Shapiro Elementary School planted wildflowers with help from the UW Oshkosh grounds crew led by Lisa Mick. “Over the course of five years, with donations and further support, hopefully the park will be much nicer, more people will know about it and it will be a place that people can utilize and enjoy here on campus,” Kercher said. The park was named in dedication of Dr. Jacob Shapiro and four UWO students, who were all killed in a car accident on March 20, 1970. Shapiro was a Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh biologist and is the Environmental Crisis Organization faculty advisor. The car accident occurred when Shapiro and the four ECO students were on their way home from an Earth Day planning meeting. “I believe that Dr. Shapiro, whose life, death and legacy have become intertwined with the development of the first Earth Day 45 years ago today, would have been proud to see the growing commitment of his campus, his colleagues, his students, and the community at large to his ideas and actions,” Provost Lane Earns said. Earns said Shapiro believed without variety and diversity, the landscape would become monotonous and the trees, birds and animals would likely become overrun by insects and disease. “It is because of his words and his actions that we are here today to dedicate this historical marker to Dr. Jacob Shapiro and the park named in his honor,” Earns said. University Archivist Joshua Ranger, who is working with Kercher and Sloey on the five-year renovation, said he would like to see the space offer something that no other outdoor space on campus has. “Now, we need to agree on what that is but by improving the space, we are also paying tribute to those on campus who really started us off on a campus-wide awareness of environmental threats and solutions,” Ranger said. Ranger said the park is still in the planning stages and they are looking for outside support. “It started as a ‘People’s Park,’ not University project, and particularly from a funding perspective, it needs to stay that way,” Ranger said. Ranger said they will be looking to corporate citizens, foundations and other funding sources dedicated to the creation and maintenance of green spaces. “The only other thing I’ll add is to invite students, faculty, staff and visitors to visit and spend some time in the park,” Ranger said. Ranger said suggestions on what people would like to see in the park can be directed to him.