Friends of Hartman Creek and the Waupaca Historical Society have been undertaking a significant renovation and improvement to the Whispering Pines Day Use Area of Hartman Creek State Park. Once a popular private park with museums and playgrounds, it’s now a quiet park filled with towering pines.
Whispering Pines History & Project Start
For many people, the mention of Whispering Pines brings back fond memories or a thought of the quiet beauty of the park. For others, it’s the first time they’ve heard of this 30-acre day-use unit of Hartman Creek State Park. Across the lakes from Hartman Creek State Park and accessed either by a parking lot or by kayak (or canoe or paddleboat depending on the day), the towering pines and Caribbean-blue water of Marl Lake leave a lasting memory on all visitors.
Whispering Pines was originally a beloved private park built by a family for free public use. With its quirky themes, sculptures, museum, playground, beautiful shaded gardens, and canopied by 100-year-old pines, the park thrived from the 1950s to the mid-70s with visitors traveling from all over the United States.
The park averaged over 100,000 visitors per year and had a major impact on the Waupaca economy in its heyday. The family died in 1975 and willed Whispering Pines to the State of Wisconsin.
During state ownership, Whispering Pines was brought back to it’s natural beauty by removing the buildings and allowing the towering White Pines to grow uninterrupted.
Many years have passed since the state has reclaimed the beauty of the property,. In 2012, the Wisconsin Legislature determined that all state park operating costs must be self-funded by admission and camping fees, which has limited the resources to maintain and improve on the park. Invasive plants have begun to take hold in sections of the park, crowding out the natural flora and fauna. Windstorm debris and fast-growing invasive plants have impacted the aesthetics and ability for visitors to enjoy the park’s many views of Marl Lake, Pope Lake State Natural Area, and Manomin Lake.
Our plan will revitalize the park by removing invasive species, regrading and resurfacing existing trails, and building new wheelchair-accessible walking trails. We will also install meditation benches at new viewing outlooks, ADA picnic tables, and interpretive signage to educate visitors about the park’s unique trees, plants, animals, and surrounding lakes. Additionally, we’re collaborating with the Waupaca Historical Society to build an exhibit featuring Whispering Pines and it’s history at the King Cottage located in South Park.
This ambitious project will make the park accessible to an aging demographic with limited mobility and attract families and adults seeking quiet solitude amongst the shade of 100’ white pines.
What makes this particular site attractive to people with limited physical abilities. The terrain is flat from the parking lot to the viewing outlooks, elevated above the lake levels by 40 feet. That means visitors relying on a wheelchair to access the area can do so independently without being pushed by an attendant.
The benefits to all visitors will be physical and mental health wellness (mindfulness), environmental awareness and education through self-discovery, and exposure to Waupaca’s other wonderful attractions (recreational, historical, and businesses).
Paying homage to Whispering Pine’s rich history and contribution to Waupaca’s development as a tourism destination, additional signage will feature photos of Whispering Pines from decades ago, letting visitors see the park as it was 50 years ago.
We hope this project will give many people a chance to relive memories of the park from years ago, and many others to create new memories in the beauty of the 100’ white pines and sparkling waters of the park.
Remove Invasive Vegetation & Storm Damage
Downed brush, timber and low value/invasive standing brush (such as burning bush, honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, garlic mustard) within 50’ of the main trail.
Establish ADA Hiking Trails
Improve the surface of the 800’ main path by adding crushed limestone and red granite. Create a new 300’ spur trail from the main path to Pope Lake overlook bench, a new 50’ spur trail from the main path to the east edge of Marl Lake overlook and a new 200’ spur trail from the top of the staircase to the west edge of Mark Lake overlook.
Create Viewing Vistas by clearing low vegetation that obscures viewing corridor
Three new viewing vistas will be created overlooking the lakes on either side of the park. Pope Lake State Natural Area Overlook, Marl Lake East Overlook (site of the Hut concrete pad) and Mark Lake West Overlook will give visitors beautiful views of the aqua-marine lakes and wildlife.
Install Interpretive Signs
Friends of Hartman Creek and the Waupaca Historical Society will be working together to install interpretive signs covering the natural and historical interests around the park. Take a walk back in time to what Whispering Pines was like when it was a theme park, seeing what used to be there back in the day.
Create a Whispering Pines exhibit at King Cottage
Located behind Hutchinson House at South Park in Waupaca. In collaboration with the Waupaca Historical Society, we will create an exhibit of Whispering Pines, including display cases with memorabilia, enlarged photos, purchase & install of video monitors and media players with rolling content.