Shapiro Park

Volunteers help plant trees in the new Shapiro Park. (The Paper of Central Wisconsin, April 27, 1970)

Although local conservatives and their hometown newspaper The Oshkosh Northwestern balked at the suggestion that birth control and abortion law be liberalized—raised at the popular and often overcrowded Earth Day sessions devoted to the population explosion—opposition to the April 22 events at WSU-O was muted. Overall, the positive feelings the community felt over the coming together around an issue of common concern lingered throughout late April. They no doubt contributed to the establishment of a park near the WSU-O campus dedicated to the memory of Dr. Shapiro and the four ECO students killed in March.

For ECO chair Harley Christensen, the idea of reclaiming university property and creating a green space harkened back to the dream he and several other thousand young people in Berkeley shared the year before over the establishment of a permanent “People's Park” from land owned by the University of California. As a witness to the violent crackdown on “People's Park” activists (orchestrated by conservative California governor Ronald Reagan), Christensen had good reason to believe that the creation of a “People's Park” at WSU-O would not come easily. But WSU-O President Roger Guiles surprised Christensen by ceding the land (soon christened “Shapiro Park”) to ECO students.

Criminal justice professor Dr. Farouk Sankari and his son contribute to the Shapiro Park cleanup. (UW Oshkosh Archives Photo 70-175.14)


On April 18, 1970, the hard work of clearing the 2,000-foot riverfront area of broken blocks of concrete, rusted metal and accumulated trash began in earnest. A local excavator and construction company filled in and leveled the area in time for the next weekend's planting of native trees, shrubs and grass. Despite the lure of a competing attraction southwest of Oshkosh on April 25 and 26—the “Wisconsin Woodstock” in Poynette, headlined by the Grateful Dead—hundreds of WSU-O students joined local scout troops, civic organizations and community members in planting several hundred trees and shrubs, many donated by Kimberly Clark.

The creation of Shapiro Park in late April 1970 provided a brief respite from tensions which had simmered between members of the campus and Oshkosh communities ever since the “Black Thursday” demonstrations were waged in November 1968. Ever conscious of these tensions and enthusiastically supportive of the ecological awakening spurred in part by Earth Day, The Paper editorialized that the creation of Shapiro Park “is one of the most beautiful spontaneous things that has happened in Oshkosh in a very long time.”

Shapiro Park twenty years later.
(UW Oshkosh Archives Photo 80-534.20)