At a meeting Tuesday night, Madison Parks Division staff presented a broad summary of its 2011-2016 Parks and Open Spaces Plan. Mary Bean, an east-side Madison resident, summed up her reaction succinctly: "You did a nice overview, but I think it would be helpful if there were more details we could chew on."
Nevertheless, Bean and other attendees did offer a few suggestions, which Parks Superintendent Kevin Briski said was exactly what the Parks Division is looking for.
"The strength of our system is really based on input," Briski explained. "We really appreciate you coming out, giving us your opinions, your thoughts, your ideas."
The Parks and Open Spaces Plan, last revised in 2005, will be updated in conjunction with the Madison Comprehensive Plan, as well as input provided through meetings like Tuesday's.
"At this point, we're still in the research and evaluation phase," said parks development manager Kay Rutledge. "We're seeking input early and will try to roll it all into the final plan."
Steve Doniger, the division's community services manager, elaborated: "What we want to know is what type of parks you want. How should we expand? What do people want, and how can we meet these demands?"
For Tuesday's attendees, these "demands" encompassed a broad range, from family-friendliness to softball, from conservation to goose control.
One north-side resident expressed concern that the Warner Park Community Recreational Center had become too focused on adults and senior citizens, cutting out programming for children and families.
Another attendee felt that drinking by young adults around Lake Wingra was making the area less family-friendly.
"We're very cognizant of that," Briski replied, "and we're currently working with the Madison Police Department."
Residents also had significant concerns about cleanliness and conservation, including natural resource preservation, blue-green algae issues and "fecal contamination" from geese.
To questions on preservation, Rutledge explained that the Park Division tried "where possible" to preserve and extend natural habitats, while still maintaining a balance with the city's recreational needs.
Attendees also brought many ideas to the table, like establishing farmer's markets in the parks (rather than parking lots) and developing the bird-watching community. One man drew praise from Parks Division staff and other attendees by raising a concern about over-development on Lake Monona .
"I really think the lakes belong to all the people," the man remarked.
Briski encouraged such suggestions, calling the meeting's input "really good stuff!"
Although only around a dozen residents came to Tuesday's meeting, the Park Division took the opportunity to encourage "everyone in the community" to contribute their input via an online survey.
"Part of the reason why we wanted to do the survey," said Rutledge, "is that not everyone in the community can come to these meetings,"
The Parks Division plans two more meetings over the next month, on Feb. 3 at the Alicia Ashman Public Library, 733 N. High Point Rd., 7-9 p.m., and on Feb. 10 at Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Drive, , 7-9 p.m. It will continue to solicit input through its online survey through Feb. 15.
"Your input is a very important part of the process," said Biski. "That's why we've gone to the extent of having meetings on top of the survey system on top of other meetings."