“There are a lot of plugs for mountain biking,” Chris James, project leader and landscape architect for the Dane County Parks said during the second public meeting to kick off the planning process to update Dane County’s Parks and Open Space Plan.

About 25 people, many associated with the county parks and volunteer groups, attended an informational meeting held April 5 at the Cottage Grove Village Hall.

The Parks and Open Space Plan, is a blueprint for future park, trail, recreation and conservation needs of the parks. The countywide comprehensive outdoor recreation and natural resource plan is updated every five years.

The informational meetings are the beginning of the planning process and are held to seek input from Dane County residents to help guide park and trail development projects from 2018-23. Updates to the plan include identifying recreational needs and natural, cultural and historical resources in the county to be considered for protection.

“The goal is to provide a five-year vision for county parks,” James said. “This is our vehicle to get it out to the public.”

Dane County has 32 parks that cover 13,000 acres, the project leader said.

Some of the comments from the audience after the presentation included a request to consider more recreational area in the northeast portion of the county. One woman said she was surprised horse trails were not one of the more popular activities in county parks.

Many praised the parks officials for mountain biking planning and for the activities at Cam-Rock Park south of Cambridge.

Some expressed an interest in connecting trails between the parks.

All the suggestions will be considered in the following four months, James said.

A draft plan will be prepared for the advisory committee by July, James said. The public and committee will review the plan in August with finalization set for September or October before it is presented to the Dane County Board of Supervisors for approval in December and submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Dane County Parks Commission Chairman Bill Lunney explained the history of the parks in Dane County. The first 35 acres of park land was purchased in 1935.

“Tonight is the beginning process for the next five-year plan,” Lunney said.

Dane County parks attract 2.5 million visitors a year, he said.

Dane County was one of the first in the United States to create dog parks, which is a growing trend, the parks commission chairman said.

“It is an exciting and challenging time for our land and water resources,” Lunney said.

In response to a rapidly expanding and diversifying park system, a park classification system was adopted by the Park Commission in 2000. The classification system identified consistent management practices for each land type and provided the public a clear expectation of how lands would be managed within each category.

The classifications include recreation parks (25 parks, 5,540 acres), natural resources areas (29 sites of 3,500 acres), historical/cultural sites (three sites, 158 acres), wildlife areas (15 wildlife areas, 3,218 acres) and forests (two forests with 188 acres).

It was pointed out that another classification is needed for trails.

While dog parks are the most used facilities in the county, the wildlife areas are the most underutilized properties, James said. Forest lands are also underutilized, he added.

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