Cultural Commons


Project Title:The Cultural Commons: An Interactive Garden and Education Space Our Vision Statement

Our vision is to create a garden and education space within Pfiffner Park to serve as an interactive and dynamic educational experience for all people. This space will establish a natural point of beginning along the Wisconsin River, leading to a greater understanding of and connection to our community’s past, present, and future multicultural heritage.

Founding Organizations

The Rotary Club of Stevens Point, the Partner City of Estelí, Nicaragua, the Sister Cities of Gulcz, Poland and Rostov Veliky, Russia, along with support from the UWSP community, have joined together to conceptualize, create, and dedicate an attractive and enduring reflection of our collective role in the culture of Stevens Point.

Why is this project being proposed?

The gardens will honor our community’s history and heritage and the long-term international relationships with the people of Rostov Veliky, Russia, Gulcz, Poland, and Esteli, Nicaragua. The gardens will be a strong and visible statement of commitment to the idea that we in Stevens Point, Wisconsin are indeed part of a wider world.


  • Represent the different cultures of the three sister/partner cities through native plantings, shade structures, and walking paths as well as through an interactive smart phone application.
  • Educate about local and regional heritage and culture via initiatives, tourism, activities and events as well as historical facts linked by phone app, and as experienced within the gardens.
  • Celebrate multicultural relationships through unique sculptures and other site features.
  • Create an outdoor place for people to come together for celebration, education, and learning through a variety of experiential spaces such as an outdoor classroom amphitheater, a reflective labyrinth, and flexible community organization exhibit areas.
  • Develop greater awareness and appreciation of other cultures, local heritage, and international relationships.
  • Enhance aesthetic and functional enjoyment of the Riverfront.
  • Promote cultural tourism
  • Support health and wellness through the gardens’ proximity to existing natural areas such as the Wisconsin River and the Green Circle Trail
  • Encompass sustainable design through native plantings, natural materials, and wildlife habitat
  • Live as an enduring multicultural, multi-generational, fully accessible space as linked to a vibrant community life.

A little about the organizations partnering in the Cultural Commons Project

The Rotary Club of Stevens Point

Rotary International is 1.2 million neighbors, friends, and community leaders  in 34,000 clubs who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world. Our differing occupations, cultures, and countries give us a unique perspective.

Our impact starts with our members – people who work tirelessly with their clubs to solve some of our communities’ toughest challenges. Our efforts are supported by Rotary International, our member association, and The Rotary Foundation, which turns generous donations into grants that fund the work of our members and partners around the world.

Our shared passion for service helps us to accomplish the following:

  • Scholarships for students from SPASH, Pacelli, MSTC and UWSP
  • International Youth Exchange
  • A pre-school in Esteli, Nicaragua
  • Literacy in Turkey
  • Grants for local youth and non-profit organizations
  • Local efforts to support Rotary International’s Post-polio Syndrome Messaging Project

The Russian Sister City Project

Rostov Veliky (Rostov the Great) is a community of 35,000 people located on the banks of Lake Nero about 125 miles northeast of Moscow, Russia. This ancient city is over 1,150 years old and attracts many tourists to see its churches, museums, and the famous Rostov bells.

The purpose of the Sister City Project, begun in 1983, is to nurture mutual understanding and peace through personal relationships between the people of Stevens Point, Wisconsin and Rostov Veliky, Yaroslav region, Russia. This communication includes a sharing of our language and culture through exchanges in education, environment, tourism, and the arts.

In recent years, the Russian Sister City Project has focused on an exchange of information and ideas on the natural environment in our two cities and regions. Stevens Point hosted three groups from Rostov Veliky in 2008, 2010 and 2012, all funded by Open World grants from the US Library of Congress. Delegates engaged in lively conversations with local counterparts on ground water, solid waste, alternative energies, and citizen initiatives to preserve the environment.

Eleven citizens from Stevens Point traveled to Rostov Veliky in the summer of 2012 to help celebrate the city’s 1,150th anniversary. Every other June we send two teachers and their student assistants to Rostov Veliky to teach conversational English to children, ages 10 to 18.

The Gulcz, Poland Sister City

The Gulcz Sister City relationship is managed by the Polish Heritage Awareness Society, a 501c3 non-profit organization “dedicated to the education, promotion and preservation of Polish American Heritage.”

Some of our history and activities include:

  • Conducting and hosting ongoing family-to-family visits in Gulcz and the Stevens Point area to share cultures
  • Provided clothing and school supplies to Gulcz in the early days of the sister city relationship
  • Provided the funding for Gulcz’s first computers to use in the classroom; the Gulcz school has been renamed the Polish American School because of these activities
  • Promoting face-to-face teacher and classroom exchange visits via Skype with Almond-Bancroft  and Gulcz grade schools
  • Developed and hosted a weekend 150th Anniversary Celebration of Michael Koziczkowski, the first Polish settler to Portage County in 1857, followed by thousands of other families
  • Hosting the annual Dozynki Harvest Festival; the group has awarded over $50,000 in scholarships to area junior and senior high school students
  • Hosting community expert lectures on:
    •  Identification of safe mushrooms to enjoy;
    •  Personal experiences of living and surviving in a World War II concentration camp and resettlement in Stevens Point;
    • A firsthand account of Saint Pope John Paul II’s visit to Stevens Point.

The Esteli, Nicaragua Partner City

Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas, Inc., (W/NP), a charter member of Partners of the Americas, Inc., is located in Stevens Point, WI. Within the organization, W/NP has a unique Partner City program linking communities in Nicaragua with communities in Wisconsin, and Stevens Point/Estelí Partner City is one of these.This structure provides grassroots opportunities through people-to-people activities at the local level that promote cultural awareness, sustainable community development, and form ties of friendship between the people of Stevens Point, WI and Estelí, Nicaragua. The concept of partnership empowers citizens from both countries to identify and affect change.

We bring people together, help them become aware, and identify ways to put their ideas into action. Collective efforts have:

  • Significantly improved emergency medical services in Estelí with the addition of a functioning ambulance that once provided service in Stevens Point,
  • Enhanced early childhood education and vocational skill building courses in Estelí through Stevens Point Rotary support, and
  • Made possible youth sports programs, personal development initiatives, and ongoing youth exchanges between the two communities.

These and many other local projects continue to bring about tremendous change in people’s lives as we come together for the good of others.

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