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Ridge History Park Welcomes New Park Director!



It’s time to make some introductions. I am Clay, your new Park Manager. I like the term “Executive Director” because it sounds so much more impressive, and my vanity precedes me a little too often in life. I thought perhaps you might want to know a little about my backstory. I am sixty-three. In my younger years, I toured as a singer-songwriter and recording artist. Never had a hit, but you can still hear me now and again on Wisconsin Public Radio. In my middle years, I was a trout fishing guide, fly fishing instructor and stream companion to aspiring anglers from all over the Midwest. I organized and hosted a concert series in Coon Valley in the early 2000s, producing over seventy shows. I’ve been a freelance writer and photographer for years. For four decades, I’ve been teaching music via private lessons, mostly guitar.

When Covid hit us and the world shut down, almost all of my music students quit for fear of death on a ventilator. All the magazines I was writing for went out of business. And, as a result, I was forced into retirement.

A few months back, I got a call from my old friend Eddie Allen (who has performed at the park) urging me to contact Julie Hundt regarding a position at the Ridge History Park. She and I met there and had a great visit as I took the extended tour. Later I met with members of the board to discuss marketing, fundraising, park improvements and more. Later yet, I met with Paul, then Vince and others. I never got my hopes too high, and to be honest, I was kind of enjoying retirement, as I once told Paul. He responded by saying, “Well, perhaps you might be looking for something to retire to?” That stuck.

Finally one day, I got a call from Paul, and he made me an offer. I discussed it with my wife, and subsequently made the decision to accept the position of being your new Executive Director … I mean, Park Manager.

Moving forward, I hope to assist in growing our membership, marketing the organization, raising more funds, planning more events, and keeping alive the history of the township and the greater La Crosse area. One thing I’ve come to know … Ridge history is rich history.

Oh, and one more thing. My dog, Willa. Dogs are family. I rescued her when she was a five month old pup. She’s thirteen now. I made it clear from the beginning that she comes with the package. She doesn’t have too many years left with us, but she is in excellent health. Where I go, she goes. (There are a few exceptions such as Ridgefest and similar events.) She loves people, all people, and she brightens a room when she enters it. Julie mentioned that she will make a wonderful park mascot, and I concur. So, drop by and meet her. You’ll love her. And she’ll most certainly love you.

We look forward to meeting you all! 

Your new Executive Director, I mean, Park Manager,


Clay Riness

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