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MOUNT PLEASANT — Smolenski Park, 438 S. Stuart Road, stretches over 70 acres in the Village of Mount Pleasant and features a newly restored prairie and Council Circle for locals and visitors to explore.

Endangered species are revitalized
Smolenski Park
The rusty patched bumblebee, a federally endangered species since 2017, returned to the area in 2022. – Credit: Root-Pike WIN

The park opened in 2002 and features:

  • Sandlot softball diamond
  • Playfield
  • Playground
  • Basketball
  • Sand volleyball
  • Hiking trails
  • Horseshoe pits
  • Picnic areas
  • Open-air shelters (by reservation)
  • Parking
  • Bathroom facilities

In addition, outdoor enthusiasts are able to explore numerous hiking trails, woodlands and wetlands, all while also gazing at a lovely pond, which is located within a 39-acre isolated natural resource area.

Honoring the past

The park, which now features a prairie, pays homage to Michael Skupniewicz, “Wisconsin’s first Polish settler,” who came to the state in 1846.

The park was owned by Walter Smolenski, a prominent Polish American in Racine until 1993 when the land was donated to the Village of Mount Pleasant.

Smolenski Park
Credit: Racine Community Foundation

In 2018, the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) and the Village of Mount Pleasant began converting fallow farmland within the park back to prairie, a very rare land type within their watersheds.

Smolenski Park
Tallgrass restoration took place in 2019 in a fallow farm field. – Credit: Root-Pike WIN

This restored prairie is not just a passive place, but an interactive area for reflection, conversation, and appreciation of this valuable land type.

Root-Pike WIN website

Contributions from the Fund for Lake Michigan, the Racine Community Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, helped bring to light this part of Smolenski Park, allowing native species and ecosystem functions to flourish, after being hidden for more than a century.

Adding the Council Circle

Within the prairie is a special feature, known as the Council Circle (or Talking Circle), that was installed in 2022 to honor different cultures including Indigenous people.

The circle provides a place to rest for visitors. It also serves as a place that promotes eye-to-eye conversation with no one person being the leader of the dialogue.

Smolenski Park
Construction of the Council Circle in the fall of 2022. – Credit: Root-Pike WIN

“Everyone in the circle has an equal voice,” states Root Pike WIN.

Smolenski Park
The Council Circle, completed in December 2022. – Credit: Root-Pike WIN

The Council Circle can be visited year-round.

In the near future, Polish words of inspiration will eventually be engraved on the benches. Until then, families, nonprofits, businesses, and friends are invited to visit the common circle.

For more information about Root Pike WIN, visit their website to learn about their mission to restore, protect and sustain the Root-Pike basin watersheds.

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