A state park honor for one of its friends

Elaine Stecker-Kochanski receives Hero Award for her dedication to Harrington Beach State Park and the group that supports it

THE GUEST OF honor at a gathering at Harrington Beach State Park in the Town of Belgium last month was Elaine Stecker-Kochanski, who held the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Hero Award that relatives and friends surprised her with. Stecker-Kochanski received the honor because of her involvement in the Friends of Harrington Beach State Park. Photo by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

Elaine Stecker-Kochanski has dedicated much of her free time to Harrington Beach State Park in the Town of Belgium since 2015, and last month her efforts earned her a special honor.

Stecker-Kochanski received the Hero Award from the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks for her “vision and dedication to Harrington Beach State Park and its many visitors.”

She has been a member of the Friends of Harrington Beach State Park since 2015 and secretary for the past five years.

Stecker-Kochanski did not know she was to receive the award.

Fellow Friends of HBSP member Becky Hall called her to meet at the park’s office to go over the annual report.

“I had no idea,” Stecker-Cochanski said.

But she became a little suspicious when she walked in. Several people, snacks and a cake were waiting, as well as a plaque with Stecker-Kochanski’s name on it.

“She’s a great help to the park,” Park Ranger Samantha Ortlieb said.

“She does a good job of rallying the troops,” Hall said.

Hall found out Stecker-Kochanski won the award in October, but the honoree was leaving for a trip to Greece. She waited until Stecker-Kochanski returned “to lure her in here.”

The award, Stecker-Kochanski said, was driven by the park’s new playground equipment for children of all abilities that was installed in spring.

The project had been on the park’s master plan since 2004 and was proposed in 2011.

This year, the work got done. Money from the estate of Jeanne Hare helped kickstart fundraising in 2021. The Friends of Harrington Beach State Park donated money from the sale of firewood, apparel and bird and bat houses toward the goal of $100,000.

The Department of Natural Resources Board approved the design plans, and equipment was bought from Lee Recreation LLC of Cambridge, which uses Burke playground equipment.

The playground includes a modular play structure with slides, climbing elements and motion play equipment, as well as swings and a motion play orb rocker.

“It seemed like a good project, even though you have lots to do in the park,” Stecker-Kochanski said.

Harrington Beach has received a few accolades over the past several years.

Former Park Supt. Carolyn Morgan was named Manager of the Year, and Friends member Denny Goldsmith was named Volunteer of the Year.

“For as small as this group has been, I think they’ve done well,” Stecker-Kochanski said. “I think there’s a lot of people who have done more work than me.”

Some of the Friends’ honors were for constructing a cabin accessible to those with disabilities. It gets booked quickly each year.

Stecker-Kochanski has worked with parks across the state as well as through her late husband, Joe Kochanski. He worked at Buckthorn and Roche-A-Cri state parks.

Stecker-Kochanski said she enjoys “keeping his legacy” by dedicating her time to state parks.

tecker-Kochanski, who lives in West Bend, said one of the reasons she enjoys the park is because of its setting.

“Having lived near Lake Michigan on both sides I learned to love spending time near the lake, so volunteering gives me good reasons to drive more often to Harrington Beach State Park,” she said.

For more information on the Friends of Harrington Beach State Park, visit friendsofharrington.org.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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