A park bench told me the story of Fonferek’s Glen, as much as its age-old dolomite cliffs, charming waterfall and whimsical name.
Dedicated to a young woman named Julia, the bench held two bunches of dying flowers when I saw it Monday afternoon. They might have been left as a tribute to her, a baker who loved Bob Seger, the Beatles, ginger tea, scones and making elaborate birthday cakes, according to her obituary. I also enjoy all of those things, which is probably why I found them so endearing. Sadly, Julia Lee Shimon died suddenly in 2015 at the age of 20.
Those flowers also might have been left in remembrance of April Janssen, who died in 2013 after falling from the Fonferek Glen cliff as she tried to help a wounded 18-year old man, who had also fallen. The young man survived but their story is a stark reminder that nature’s tranquility can mask its danger.
Fonferek’s Glen is a lovely, peaceful place and the perfect spot for a bench dedicated to the memory of a sweet young girl. But, especially the day I ever-so-carefully made my way around the waterfall, it is also dangerous. It occurred to me as I arrived and found myself all alone in the park, that I should text someone to let them know where I was.
Icy paths led me to a frozen waterfall that drops 30 feet and changes colors as the sunlight moves through it. The land, which Brown County purchased from the Fonferek family in 1991, has grown into a natural conservancy with native trees and prairie.
Some aspects of that land have been there for a millennium, others grow fresh every year. I think that combination of eternity and fragility represents humanity so well. We’re only here for a season, but our soul and our legacy lives on.