Five Wilmot Mountain employees add crushed stone to a pavilion at Fox River Park Sept. 16 (Courtesy of Jesse Hess of Wilmot Mountain/The Report).

Wilmot Mountain digs in at Fox River Park

By Jason Arndt

Vail Resorts had an EpicPromise, and the company delivered at Fox River Park Sept. 16, when more than 100 Wilmot Mountain employees and their families dug in to improve the Kenosha County Park.

EpicPromise Week, a company-wide volunteer effort, is held annually in communities served by Vail Resorts.

According to Rachael Muhlenbeck of Wilmot Mountain, the volunteer efforts are aimed at improving the quality of life of communities.

“Every year, we pick a different project within the community,” said Muhlenbeck, the marketing and public relations manager for Wilmot Mountain. “Usually it involves an environmental or cleanup project.”

Meghan Ogilvie, daughter of Wilmot Mountain general manager Taylor Ogilvie, paints exterior windowsills on the future overnight lodge at Fox River Park.

Last year, Wilmot Mountain employees dug in at Richard Bong State Recreation Area in the Town of Brighton, where they completed several projects.

The cleanup projects, Muhlenbeck said, are part of a larger effort throughout the country that includes more than 2,000 employees.

“This is a service project that Vail Resorts, as a company, does across all of our resorts,” Muhlenbeck said. “This is the second year that we have participated.”

Although the project seeks to make improvements in the community, it brings another benefit, according to Muhlenbeck.

Compared to daily operations, the outside event strengthens the bond within the workforce and among families and friends who join in.

“It is a good opportunity for our employees to get together outside of our normal day-to-day operations,” Muhlenbeck said.

The opportunity, meanwhile, brought several improvements on Saturday.

Kenosha County Parks Director Matt Collins, who was approached by Vail Resorts about three months ago, said the Vail Resorts’ contribution is appreciated.

“This year, we were privileged to be chosen to collaborate and work alongside Wilmot Mountain, and they brought over 100 volunteers today to do numerous projects throughout Fox River Park,” Collins said at Fox River Park Saturday.

The effort helped restore some parts of Fox River Park and expedited other projects the Kenosha County Parks Department had on its agenda, Collins said.

With Vail Resorts’ initiative, Collins said, the projects were designed to show frequent Fox River Park users tangible improvements.

“These were value-added projects that we wanted to make sure that our park staff collaboratively worked alongside these volunteers to truly make an impact,” he said.

Projects included hedging the trails, restoring one of the original picnics areas, adding perennials, road shoulder improvements, adding light fixtures to the former park superintendent home, among a series of other upgrades.

Collins said the value-added projects give Wilmot Mountain employees a greater appreciation for the community they serve.

“When they come through the park with their families in the future, they can point to that and feel a sense of accomplishment and they truly did give back to the community so we wanted to make sure that it was truly value-added projects.”

Grand entrance
When anyone enters Fox River Park, they often see the Civil Conservation Corps statue, but users can expect to see a blossoming landscape after Saturday’s work.

According to Collins, Vail Resorts bought perennials that were planted by the Wilmot Mountain volunteers.

“Outside of our main entrance next to our CCC statue, a group of workers – with the funding through Wilmot Mountain – was able to plant a lot of perennials over there,” he said.

Christine Hildebrandt adds landscaping near the commemorative statue at Fox River Park.

Along the multi-use trails and roadway in the park, volunteers and county employees worked to clear away debris and brush, creating easier access.

On the shoulders of the road, workers and volunteers added topsoil to the shoulders of the road.

“We actually restored an old 1937 picnic area to make that more visible, so it was one of the original picnic sites of Fox River Park,” Collins said.

Historical revival
Like the 1937 picnic area restoration, a historical structure will get a new life, when the Kenosha County Parks Department converts the former park superintendent building into an overnight lodging facility.

Collins, standing next to the structure Saturday, said the building carries historical significance.

“Where we are standing right now is an old park superintendent house that actually dates back to the CCC era,” he said. “We are on revitalizing and restoring it to be reconditioned into an overnight lodge for scout and civic groups.”

With the help of Wilmot Mountain volunteers, workers replaced fascia boards on the exterior, scraped and painted windowsills and added landscaping around the perimeter.

Inside the house, new LED light fixtures were installed.

Collins hopes to see completion of the renovated building by 2018 and sees it as an asset for the community.

“I think it is going to be a fairly popular addition to our community,” he said.

Unprecedented contribution
Vail Resorts contribution, according to Collins, is unprecedented.

The volunteers contributed four hours of work to equal more than 400 hours in one morning.

“That really shows you the magnitude of each volunteer and how much they were able to contribute,” said Collins.

The magnitude raised the bar, he said, adding the Kenosha County Parks always welcomes volunteers.

“These opportunities are open to anyone and I think it’s a great standard that Vail Resorts and Wilmot Mountain was able to set that precedent at a high level already,” he said.


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