Park Improvements

Park Plantings, Landscaping, and Recreational Amenities

Madison residents value City parks as both natural and recreational landscapes. City parks are places to gather, have fun, and appreciate the unique harmony between city and nature. By proposing creative park plantings, landscaping, and recreational improvements, Madison’s neighborhood associations help the Parks Division to continually improve Madison’s valued parklands.

Parks Division staff can help your neighborhood association prepare park planting, landscaping, or recreational improvement plans; learn about the Parks Division’s funding programs; and develop appropriate proposal and funding strategies. Park planting and landscaping improvements can include grass planting and grading, tree and shrub plantings, flower gardens, and creative combinations of plantings and other materials. Potential park recreational improvements include benches, picnic tables, shelters, play equipment, lighting, trash receptacles, bike racks, basketball and tennis courts, athletic fields, and lakefront beaches and swimming areas.

Capital Budget Requests

The Parks Division annually invites registered neighborhood associations to propose park improvements for funding through the Parks Division’s capital budget. Capital budget funds are allocated to park improvement projects based on need, cost, and compatibility with the Madison Parks and Open Space Plan. Park improvements eligible for capital budget funding (reserved for capital improvements with a life expectancy of ten years or more) include landscaping, grading and seeding, trees and larger shrubs, benches, tables, play equipment, and other recreation amenities. More appropriate funding sources for annuals and other short-lived plantings are the Marguerite Pohle Flower Gardens Program and local fundraising. 

Capital budget request letters are mailed to registered neighborhood associations several months prior to the March request deadline. For information on neighborhood association registration, contact the Planning Unit at 266-4635.

How to Get Started:

v     Discuss park improvement project ideas with Parks Division staff. Contact the Parks Division to describe your preliminary planting/landscaping or recreational improvement ideas. Parks Division staff will explain whether your proposed park improvement is consistent with the Parks and Open Space Plan, indicate the likelihood of capital budget funding, and describe how to prepare an effective letter of request.

v     Submit letter of request to the Parks Division. Your letter of request should describe: the proposed plant varieties, landscaping materials, or recreational amenities; the proposed planting/landscaping or recreational amenity location in relation to existing park structures, plantings, and boundaries; and maintenance requirements for planting/ landscaping projects. Parks Division staff will review your proposal, prepare a preliminary cost estimate including both implementation and maintenance costs, and rank your proposal based on cost and need compared to other proposals. Your proposal should also indicate whether or not your group is willing to raise funds if necessary to partially fund your proposed park improvement. 

v     Solicit your district Alderperson’s support for your request. Contact your district Alderperson to request support for your request. Send your Alderperson copies of your letter of request and all other correspondence with the Parks Division. 

v     Attend Parks Commission public hearing. After Parks Division staff review requests and prepare cost estimates, the Parks Commission schedules a public hearing to discuss capital budget requests. Although hearing attendance is optional, it is often beneficial to speak in support of your proposal and learn about other proposals. If a representative of your group is unable to attend the hearing, it is prudent to submit written support for your proposal (a letter from your group as well as letters from supportive neighborhood residents) to the Parks Division prior to the hearing. Information on the hearing site, date, and time can be obtained from the Parks Division.

v     Contact the Parks Division to determine funding status. The Parks Commission reviews all capital budget requests and sends final funding recommendations to the Mayor’s Office by May. Contact Parks Division staff in May to find out whether or not your proposal has been recommended for capital budget funding. If your request does not receive funding, Parks Division staff can provide helpful guidance on preparing a request for the subsequent budget year.

Contact:

Kay Rutledge, Parks Division

City County Building, Rm. 104

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-4711 Fax: 267-1162

e-mail: krutledge@cityofmadison.com 

People for Parks Proposals

The People for Parks Program provides dollar-for-dollar matching funds for private donations toward approved park improvement projects. Park improvements eligible for People for Parks funding (reserved for capital improvements with a life expectancy of ten years or more) include landscaping, grading and seeding, trees and larger shrubs, benches, tables, play equipment, and other recreational amenities. More appropriate funding sources for annuals and other short-lived plantings are the Marguerite Pohle Flower Gardens Program and local fundraising.

How to Get Started:

v     Contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator for pre-proposal advice. Before you prepare a proposal, contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator to find out if your proposed park improvement is eligible for People for Parks funding. The Outreach Coordinator can describe how to prepare a proposal.

v     Submit preliminary plan and sketch of proposed planting/landscaping or recreational improvement. People for Parks proposals can be submitted at any time during the year. Funding is allocated to approved proposals until annual People for Parks funds are exhausted. Proposals should describe: the proposed plant varieties, landscaping materials, or recreational amenities; the proposed planting/landscaping or recreational amenity location in relation to existing park structures, plantings, and boundaries; maintenance requirements; and the amount of funding that your neighborhood association is prepared to contribute for the project. 

v     Contact Parks Division to determine proposal status. The People for Parks proposal review process depends on project cost. If the total project cost is less than $10,000, approval is required only from Parks Division staff. If project cost is greater than $10,000, additional approval is required from the Board of Estimates and the Common Council. If your proposal does not receive People for Parks funding, be sure to ask why. Parks Division staff can provide helpful advice on how to prepare a more effective proposal in the future.

v     Raise funds from neighborhood residents and businesses. If your proposal is approved, you will need to raise funds (one half of project cost) from neighborhood residents and businesses. Your park improvement can be implemented as soon as the required funds are submitted to the Parks Division. (Make checks payable to the City Treasurer. Contributions are tax-deductible. The Parks Division will provide a receipt.)

v     Comply with maintenance agreement. According to a signed maintenance agreement with the Parks Division, project-proposing citizens and neighborhood associations often must assume full responsibility for maintenance of park improvements implemented through the People for Parks Program.

Contact:

Laura Prindle, Outreach Coordinator

Parks Division

City County Building, Rm. 104

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-5949 Fax: 267-1162

e-mail: lprindle@cityofmadison.com 

Successful Implementation: Meadowood Park Improvements

“You need to get on the phone early to find out what your options are,” advises Ann Roth, thinking back to how she and her friends in the Meadowood Community Association (MCA) got started on a recent park improvement project. Roth called the Parks Division to discuss several playground improvement ideas for Meadowood Park and learned that the Parks Division was already planning to replace the park’s playground equipment in the near future. This information was vital since it helped MCA develop a planning and fundraising strategy in combination with existing Parks Division funds for the park. Over the next several months, MCA worked with the Parks Division, the district Alderperson, and neighborhood residents to identify the most beneficial combination of City and neighborhood resources. MCA began fundraising with an announcement at the neighborhood’s annual 4th of July picnic, followed by phone calls, door-to-door visits, neighborhood newsletter articles, and the placement of donation canisters at local businesses. Roth and her friends have learned some important fundraising lessons. One lesson is that people are more likely to contribute funds if they are given opportunities to identify the park improvements for which the funds will be used. MCA organized neighborhood meetings and distributed surveys in their neighborhood newsletter to identify and rank neighborhood park playground needs. Second, it is important to identify the unique strengths of each project organizer in order to most effectively share organizing duties. Roth, for instance, feels pretty confident developing project plans and working with Parks Division staff to identify options, while other MCA members have stronger fundraising skills. Third, MCA has learned how to get the most out of fundraising efforts by asking local businesses for “in-kind” contributions as well as money. MCA maintains a list of businesses that provide free food and other materials for neighborhood events, in turn allowing MCA to utilize more of its funds for park improvements. Lastly, contacting the Parks Division prior to any planning or fundraising efforts was crucial for MCA since it enabled project planners to identify the best possible ways to combine neighborhood and Parks Division resources. Shown above are children enjoying the new climbing structure, which, along with a new merry-go-round, swing and teeter-totter, are appreciated by the neighborhood children. Neighborhood spirit was enhanced by the work days when the neighborhood turned out to paint play equipment and the park shelter, trim weeds, and spread mulch in Meadowood Park.

Marguerite Pohle Flower Proposals

Established in 1986 through a bequest from the estate of long-time Madison resident Marguerite Pohle, the Marguerite Pohle Flower Gardens Program offers the opportunity for volunteer gardeners to design, plant, and maintain flower beds in City parks. The Marguerite Pohle fund provides plants, flowers, and soil amenities to volunteer gardeners whose plans have been approved by Parks Division staff. Volunteers are responsible for planting and ongoing maintenance duties.

How to Get Started:

v     Contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator to determine fund status. Since the amount of Marguerite Pohle funding available each year fluctuates based on the interest accrued from a trust fund, you should contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator in April to determine funding availability. 

v     Discuss preliminary project ideas with Parks Division staff. Before you formally submit a proposal, discuss your preliminary ideas with Parks Division staff to get helpful advice on how to prepare a proposal.

v     Submit preliminary plan and sketch by October 1 deadline. Marguerite Pohle proposals must be submitted by October 1 to allow sufficient time for staff review, comment, and approval prior to the following growing season. Proposals should include a detailed drawing and description of your proposed flower garden, including what flowers and other plants would be required; the location of your proposed flower garden in relation to existing park structures, plantings, and boundaries; a list and schedule of ongoing maintenance tasks that your flower garden would require; and a list of volunteers who would be responsible for planting and maintenance. Proposals may be modified according to staff review and comment. 

v     Submit letter of support from your district Alderperson. A letter of support from your district Alderperson is required for new flower gardens to be implemented with Marguerite Pohle funds. 

v     Contact Parks Division to determine proposal status. Contact Parks Division staff to determine the status of your proposal. If your proposal does not receive funding, be sure to ask why. Parks Division staff can provide helpful advice on how to prepare a more effective proposal in the future.

v     Develop long-term maintenance plan for flower garden. Flower gardens funded through the Marguerite Pohle Program must be maintained by the persons and/or groups who propose them. Parks Division staff can help you develop a long-term maintenance plan. 

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  Where can neighborhood associations obtain information on costs/maintenance requirements for various plant varieties?

A:  Parks staff can provide this information if you can provide specific descriptions of the park planting project you have in mind.

Q:  How does the Parks Division define landscaping?

A:  Landscaping is the art of designing, planning, and managing the combination of natural and man-made elements, including trees, shrubs and flowers; retaining walls, berms, swales, and other earth grading; water features; and site amenities such as water fountains, public art, furniture, and recreation amenities.

Q:  Where can neighborhood associations obtain cost and design information on park recreational amenities?

A:  Parks Division staff can provide this information if you can provide specific descriptions of the park improvement project you have in mind. Be aware that cost estimates can vary widely due to major cost differences associated with alternative styles, materials, colors, sizes, manufacturers, and shipping fees.

Contact:

Laura Prindle, Outreach Coordinator

Parks Division

City County Building, Rm. 104

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-5949 Fax: 267-1162

e-mail: lprindle@cityofmadison.com 

Park Maintenance

The Parks Division is responsible for maintaining over 5,400 acres of turf and parklands, including City parks and adjacent greenspace, median strips and traffic islands, and most park facilities and infrastructure. Priority maintenance services – including mowing, trash pick-up, and facility cleaning – are performed in all City parks on a regularly scheduled basis. Remaining staff time is used to accomplish less essential duties, with a focus on providing an equal level of service to all City parks. The Parks Division also responds to specific citizen requests for park maintenance, which are prioritized based upon safety/urgency and staff availability. 

Volunteer park maintenance efforts have become extremely important in order to maintain the high-quality City park system that Madison residents cherish. Your neighborhood association can play a vital role in City park maintenance by informing neighborhood residents about ways to participate in park maintenance and by organizing volunteer park maintenance projects and events.

People for Parks Volunteer Maintenance Projects

Citizens and neighborhood associations can work with the Parks Division to propose and perform volunteer park maintenance activities through the People for Parks Program. The Parks Division’s Outreach Coordinator helps volunteers develop and obtain approval for proposals and can also arrange for equipment and debris pick-up assistance from the Parks Division. Volunteer maintenance activities can include collection of trash, recyclables, leaves, and brush, as well as approved weeding and trimming tasks.

How to Get Started:

v     Identify potential maintenance site(s) and activities. Identify the park areas and maintenance activities involved in your proposed park maintenance project.

v     Contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator. Contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator to discuss your proposal. Proposals should specify the planned date(s) and site(s) for maintenance activities; the proposed maintenance activities and equipment needs; and the names of volunteers. Proposals are forwarded to Parks Division staff for review and may be modified according to staff comment. 

v     Identify debris pick-up sites. The Outreach Coordinator will help you identify potential sites for volunteers to place trash, recyclables, and plant waste for collection by the Parks Division.

v     Identify equipment needs. The Outreach Coordinator will help you identify your equipment needs. In many cases, the Parks Division may be able to loan equipment to volunteers. 

v     Develop an event plan if organizing an open-invitation park maintenance or clean-up event. In some cases, you may wish to organize open-invitation park maintenance or clean-up events. For such events, you need to develop an event plan including how you will ensure that volunteers sign Parks Division release forms; how you will organize volunteers to accomplish specific maintenance goals; how you will distribute and collect Parks Division equipment at the event; and how you will effectively advertise your event. The Outreach Coordinator can help you develop an event plan.

v     Sign Parks Division release form(s). Each volunteer must sign a Parks Division release form that authorizes volunteer activities on City parklands.

v     Complete your maintenance project. With assistance from the Parks Division, you are ready to put your volunteer maintenance plan into action.

v     Return Volunteer release form(s) to Outreach Coordinator. When your project is completed, return signed release forms to the Outreach Coordinator. These forms are used to create a list of volunteers who are honored at an annual Parks Division Volunteer Recognition Ceremony.

Contact:

Laura Prindle, Outreach Coordinator

Parks Division

City County Building, Rm. 104

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-5949 Fax: 267-1162

e-mail: lprindle@cityofmadison.com 

Adopt-a-Park Volunteer Maintenance Agreements

In response to increasing citizen interest in long-term volunteer park maintenance agreements, the Parks Division has created the Adopt-a-Park Program. In approved Adopt-a-Park arrangements, citizens or neighborhood associations sign written agreements with the Parks Division that authorize specific persons to carry out specific park maintenance tasks in specific park areas over an extended period of time. Adopt-a-Park agreements permit ongoing volunteer maintenance – park “adoption” – without requiring separate approval from the Parks Division for each instance of volunteer maintenance work. 

How to Get Started:

v     Identify park or park area and proposed maintenance activities. Identify the park or park area you would like to “adopt” and the maintenance tasks you would like to perform. 

v     Contact the Parks Outreach Coordinator. If your Adopt-a-Park proposal seems feasible, the Parks Outreach Coordinator will mail you an information packet and application form for the Adopt-a-Park Program.

v     Submit Adopt-a-Park application. Complete and return the Adopt-a-Park application to the Outreach Coordinator. Applications are reviewed by the appropriate Parks maintenance supervisor and may need to be modified before being approved.

v     Sign Parks Division release form(s). Each volunteer must sign a Parks Division release form in order for the Parks Division to authorize Adopt-a-Park activities.

v     Sign Adopt-a-Park agreement with Parks Division. The agreement will specify the time period over which specified maintenance activities by specified persons will be permitted.

v     “Adopt” your park or park area. You are ready to “adopt” your park or park area as specified in your agreement with the Parks Division.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Q:  Can the Parks Division provide tools for volunteer park maintenance projects?

A:  Yes. However, to ensure the safety of volunteers, tool requests are evaluated by the respective Parks Division field supervisor and by the Parks Outreach Coordinator before any tools are loaned.

Q:  Are there any kinds of maintenance activities that volunteers are not permitted to perform on City parklands?

A:  In instances where skilled labor requiring the use of power tools may be necessary, the Parks Division evaluates requests on a case-by-case basis before authorizing volunteer maintenance activities. 

Contact:

Laura Prindle, Outreach Coordinator

Parks Division

City County Building, Rm. 104

210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Madison, WI 53703

Phone: 266-5949 Fax: 267-1162

e-mail: lprindle@cityofmadison.com

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