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Early in the pandemic as the weather turned warmer and people sought refuge outdoors more than ever before, City Traffic Engineering worked to create temporary pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians. Vilas Park Drive was one of several roads closed or adjusted to meet the increased biking and walking demand.

While reservations and events at parks were not permitted, the popularity of outdoor spaces for individuals and families across the city increased, including at Vilas Park. The temporary closure of Vilas Park Drive enhanced access for pedestrians and bikers during the spring and summer seasons. This closure also provided Parks an opportunity to evaluate this concept for the future as a consideration for the Vilas Park Master Plan project.

This Saturday is the first of two Democracy in the Park events held at more than 200 parks citywide, including Vilas Park. In an effort to promote ease of access for voters, the Drive will be reopened for vehicular traffic on Friday afternoon for each of the next two weekends. The Drive will be closed to vehicular traffic on Monday morning each week.

“It’s imperative we provide an accessible space for the community to register and return their absentee ballot in person. We see this as an honor to support the most important mission of the City – giving our residents a voice in the democratic process,” said Eric Knepp, Madison Parks Superintendent.

In addition to the Democracy in the Park event, there are two small, long-planned weddings that will occur over these two weekends. Staff are continuing to evaluate options for an interim plan for the Drive for the winter and spring. This includes reduction in speed limits, limiting access, and providing access for winter recreation in a manner that can be maintained. Staff will seek feedback and input on this interim plan over the coming weeks.