LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) – Even a local Grinch couldn’t stop a Christmas tradition returning to Burns Park in La Crosse.

The park has been on the edge of downtown since 1903 and used to be much more festive during the holiday season.

“A long time ago, in the very early days of Burns Park, they used to put a tree up in the center of the park,” Downtown Neighborhood Association member Courtney Lokken said.

After some brainstorming, Lokken and other members of the association decided to once again put a tree in the park for the entire community to enjoy.

“After the pandemic, I think we saw an opportunity to add some cheer and some joy to our neighborhood,” Lokken added.

That joy hit a bit of a speedbump once the tree was brought to the park last week.

“We left it here for the Parks Department to put up the next morning, and unfortunately, overnight it walked away,” Lokken recalled. “Those kinds of things happen sometimes, and all you can really do is laugh and then problem-solve.”

That problem-solving included enlisting the help of the La Crosse Police Department.

“We knew that a lot of people were counting on the tree being here, people were going to get enjoyment out of the tree, it’s kind of a community focal point here in the park,” Neighborhood Resource Officer (NRO) Nate Lewis said. “Our northside Neighborhood Resource Officers were able to follow a drag trail from the center of the park to a few blocks away, where we found the tree in the front porch of someone where it wasn’t supposed to be.”

Lewis and other NROs were able to return the tree, bringing some holiday cheer back to Burns Park.

“Solving a crime like this, it’s not a super expensive item, but it’s something that people have a lot of thoughts and feelings about,” Lewis said. “To be able to bring that back and solve it for them, and kind of bring some closure to it, it gives you a good feeling inside.”

Despite the initial hiccup, Lokken hopes the community around the park can enjoy their own Christmas tree for years to come.

“This is just the first year, and there’s lots of trial by fire, lots of room for learning, but we’ll be able to start making this an annual tradition here and hopefully see it grow,” Lokken expressed.

The Burns Tree project was also put together by Park Bank and the La Crosse Parks and Rec. Department.

The initial tree was provided by Lamke Tree Farm but was damaged during the incident.

A replacement tree was delivered by Driftless Evergreen Co. & Christmas Trees.

Anyone who wants to learn more about the Downtown Neighborhood Association, or would like to attend one of its upcoming meetings, can find more information on its website.