A dog greets his owner

After a run with several dogs visiting the Milton dog park, “Stormy” a white German shepherd, takes a moment to check in with his owner, Ben Hirte of Milton. Hirte said he and his pets are frequent visitors to the park and praised Milton for offering an amenity of its quality.

Some 12 city-owned parks are undergoing an assessment process the results of which will be used to create a Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP). The document will outline future plans for citywide parks and is a prudent step toward eligibility when applying for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grants available for park improvements, according to Administrative Services Director Inga Cushman.

Recently, Cushman told members of the Parks and Recreation Commission that the city has approximately 117 acres of parkland, including 86 acres of neighborhood parks, and while Schilberg Park is designated as a community park, it is owned by the Milton School District, and therefore not included within the city’s 2019 Parks Review, parts of which are still being executed in 2020, and Parks and Recreation Commission 2020 Work Plan, nor will it be included within the draft and final version of the CORP.

A CORP is developed to cover a five-year period, Cushman said, noting that the last time the city updated its plan was in 2000, with that plan running from 2001 to 2005.

“We have started and stopped this process a couple of times since then,” Cushman said.

A timeline to develop a CORP began in August, with data collected through park inspections conducted by park commissioners and city staff, a needs assessment survey made available online, and a public input meeting.

In September, the timeline called for commissioners to review data collected and make their recommendations about items for inclusion in the CORP.

Earlier this month, a draft of the CORP was shared with commissioners for their review, Cushman said. A “final” CORP will undergo review by the commission, along with its approval recommended to the city council, on Oct. 19. The city’s Plan Commission is anticipated to review the final CORP and recommend it to the council on Oct. 20, according to the timeline. The council is anticipated to review and approve the plan during its meeting on Oct. 20.

Survey

The needs assessment survey was made available to residents online between Aug. 19 and Sept. 14, Cushman said.

In a summary, Cushman shared the following results:

  • Sixty-five individuals responded to the survey. Over half of the respondents (60.9%) were in the 35-44 year old category. Almost 75% of the respondents identified as female, and almost all identified as white or Caucasian. Almost half of all respondents (47.6%) were from the city of Milton. The remaining respondents were from the towns of Milton, Harmony, Fulton and Janesville, and the city of Janesville, and four indicated “Other” as where they live.
  • The overwhelmingly preferred method to receive information about parks and recreation facilities is through Facebook, followed by the city of Milton’s website. The bi-monthly utility bill newsletter and the newspaper also had higher responses.
  • Based on the responses, the park used most often in a 30-day period during a typical summer is South Goodrich Park. There wasn’t any park listed that was never used by all respondents. A majority of respondents rated the existing parks and recreational facilities in the city of Milton as a 3 or better on a five-point scale with 5 being Excellent. The respondents were asked if they “1-Strongly Disagree” or “5-Strongly Agree” that the parks and recreation facilities fulfill their personal needs and their community’s needs. A majority responded with a response of 3-5. In addition, using the same scale, the respondents were asked if there are adequate parks and recreational facilities in their neighborhoods. A majority responded to this question with a 3 or better.
  • According to Cushman, the overall takeaway from open-ended responses: “is improving maintenance of the parks and playground equipment and upgrading existing equipment. There were many respondents who appear to be associated with a club softball team that uses the South Goodrich Park softball field. There were a variety of comments related to improvements requested for the field. There was also discussion on additional or improved natural elements and adult play equipment or exercise equipment. Some respondents also commented on additional basketball hoops, a skate park, outdoor pool, bathrooms at more parks, benches, bike racks, shade and shaded seating at Crossridge Park, art, and improvements to scoreboards and bleachers in some parks.”

Public Input meeting

A virtual public input meeting to allow residents to offer suggestions about parks was held Sept.10. While several Parks and Recreation Commissioners, including Lee Ann Hare, Ryan Peterson, Karen Reed and Howie Robinson, and City of Milton Common Council member Lynda Clark and Mayor Anissa Welch were in attendance, other members of the public did not attend.

During the meeting, Clark offered several ideas for park improvements, saying, “overall, our parks are in very good shape,” but noting her concern about “how many trees are in them.”

She suggested planting trees in parks at a faster rate, adding: “The more trees the better.”

In Railroad Park, she suggested planting an arrangement of trees that could be decorated during the holidays. The park could also benefit from seating structures and possibly a gazebo, she said.

She advocated for creating a walking trail between Schilberg and Crossbridge parks, suggesting the city consider the addition of a bike trail, and a sidewalk on Bowers Lake Road.

Clark said she had received an email from a citizen in which concerns about South Goodrich Park, and specifically a softball diamond in need of “some TLC,” were raised.

In North Goodrich Park, she suggested the addition of street lamps.

Crossridge Park is visited by residents of the Brown subdivision, where, she said, many families have small children. She suggested a “tot lot” or “mini park,” to accommodate younger residents.

2019 Project Review

Referencing a work plan included in the Sept. 21 parks commission meeting packet, Cushman said the document is created on an annual basis to set park commission goals.

“The statement (within the Sept. 21 packet) is the goals set for the previous year — and because this was an unusual year — goals we hope to accomplish in 2020. Because it was an unusual year, we are not sure where we will end up. The current goal is to continue working against the list,” she said.

Once a CORP is finalized, Cushman said, “I don’t know if we will move forward with having an annual plan.” Instead, she said, the city might opt to review the CORP on an annual basis.

With a CORP in place, she said: “We are hoping to apply for more grants and we hope it will allow the commission to have a better picture of what they want to accomplish over a five-year period.”

A 2019 Project Review within the Parks and Recreation Commission 2020 Work Plan included the following projects:

• Crossridge Park: an annual prairie seed collection was hosted in October 2019.

• Tree City designation: an Arbor Day observance was hosted in March 2019; a 2019 Urban Forestry Grant from DNR was received; the “current tree replacement program in parks” was continued.

• Veterans Park: additional bricks were placed at the memorial; the commission assisted with the Second Annual Active Duty Military Honor Holiday Tree; the commission worked with volunteers to fundraise for, plan and construct the park’s pavilion.

• Bike Racks: Bike racks were purchased and placed at North and South Goodrich parks.

• King Park: the location of two new “baskets” were determined, with placement plans noted in the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2020.

• Tails n Trails Dog Park: an annual park cleanup was hosted in September of 2019.

• Tower Hill Park: a path was added from the sidewalk to playground equipment.

• Water Tower Park: playground equipment was purchased, with installation plans noted for the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020.

2020 Work Plan

Continuing into 2020, the following projects and activities were planned:

• Bike racks: a “Fixit” and “Air Kit 3” was purchased to be placed on the Glacial River Bike Trail and at the Milton Public Library. If funding allows, plans call for the purchase of similar equipment for placement at Railroad Park. Bike rack purchases are also planed for Railroad Park and the Milton Public Library.

• Community House: a plan of action will be developed to rejuvenate the interior and exterior of the building.

• Crossridge Park: An annual seed collection is planned for Oct. 17; grant opportunities are under exploration to complete the Crossridge Park Project Plan, with applications submitted where appropriate.

• King Park: If not completed in 2019, “install two additional baskets.

• Lamar Park: installation of blacktop under the bleachers at the “little” ball diamond is planned.

• Liberty Park: the purchase and installation of additional playground equipment is planned; the commission plans to analyze traffic patterns at the park to optimize safety.

• Veterans Park: Annual Active Duty Military Honor Holiday Tree activities will continue; brick placements are planned in advance of Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day; the dedication of the pavilion was planned for May 25; planting of a mix of evergreens and shade trees was planned.

• Story Gardens: plans call for work to continue on design, construction and fundraising; construct, as funding allows, an outdoor program space, raised garden beds, ramps and a walking path.

• Pollinator Art: pieces are planned for installation in Crossridge Park and the Story Gardens at the Milton Public Library.

• Tails n Trails Dog Park: determination of a new location for a “port-a-john” at the facility; add curbing around the dog washing station.

• Connecting trail between Crossridge and Schilberg parks: discussions are slated to continue.

• Water Towner Park: playground equipment has been installed.

• Tree City designation: an Arbor Day event was held in September; a Tree City designation application was competed, and an application for a 2021 Urban Forestry Grant from the DNR has been submitted; the commission plans to continue its “tree replacement in parks” program.

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