Vilas (Henry) Park Master Plan

Last Updated: 12/11/2019

Aerial of Vilas Park, showing Lake Wingra beach.
Vilas Park, with beach and fishing access on Lake Wingra, lagoons, and other park amenities.

The master planning process for Vilas Park is currently underway!


And email your thoughts & ideas to, submit a Comment Card, and subscribe to receive updates on the project, and encourage friends, neighbors, family members and colleagues to do the same!

The project to develop a master plan design and report for Vilas Park began in earnest in June 2019, but is not anticipated to be completed until Fall 2020.  Consultants MSA Professional Services, Inc. and subconsultant Urban Assets LLC will be meeting with many different groups throughout the summer, fall, winter and early spring months with the intent of obtaining as much input as possible to help to inform the master plan design proposal(s).  Public input, of course, will be just one compnent of the project and the consultant team is also currently engaged in conducting the necessary research and data collection researching cultural and historic uses of the park, conducting on-site observations of park users, conducting traffic studies & analysis and developing an understanding of water quality issues within both the lagoons and Lake Wingra to fully inform design proposals.  When prepared, the design proposals will be shared at a larger public input meeting as well as with the smaller focus groups that the team has been engaging with early on in the project.  Additional information about the project, including the current timeline/schedule, can be found at the links, below: 

Project Status Update:

11-18-2019 "Twin" bridges
Historic park planning documents and information from the Annual Report of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association describe a gift of $5000 given by Senator and Mrs. Vilas to construct two bridges to cross the lagoon.  While one of the bridges remains in the current area of the park today, the location of the other is a bit less obvious: it serves as the crossing over the koi pond (itself a likely remnant of the lagoon) in the Henry Vilas Zoo!  The historical photograph, below, from the 1915-1916 Annual Report of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association, shows this bridge in the background - nearly in-line with the young girl in white at the right foreground.

Panoramic photograph from the 1915-1916 Annual Report of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Assoication
Panoramic image from the 1915-1916 Annual Report of the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association

10-29-2019 Why are the trees marked in green?!

Staff from MSA Professional Services, Inc. have been at work on a tree inventory at the park - work has involved taking pictures, gathering GPS location data and identifying trees to species which will provide valuable information for both the project and for Parks asset management efforts.  The green paint is being utilized to mark trees for which data has already been collected to avoid overlaps in the inventory.

Phase I Site Analysis, Neighborhood & Community Engagement:

In addition to comments already received via the Vilas Park Master Plan Survey, email address and completed Comment Cards, Consultants MSA Professional Services, Inc. and subconsultant Urban Assets, LLC have been collecting comments and input via on-site intercept interviews with park users, meetings with City of Madison Planning, Engineering, Parks and Traffic Engineering staff; WiDNR staff; Army Corps of Engineers staff and engaging Focus Group sessions with Badger Rock Community Center and scheduling upcoming sessions with Bayview and a Mike Ford-led workshop with area youth.  Meeting notes and materials from these sessions will be posted to this site as they become available.

Resident Resource Group Meeting #1; 11-6-2019

Meeting follow-up:  As part of the Vilas Park master planning process, the Parks Department is seeking additional input from neighborhood associations and their residents.  Members of the Resident Resource Group were asked to share the following information with their respective neighborhood associations and to return responses to the consultant team by January 31, 2020.

Interagency Staff Meeting #2; 10-23-2019

Focus Group Session #2; Bayview Center Senior Bingo Luncheon 9-25-2019
Community Partners Advisory Group; 9-23-2019

Focus Group Session #1; Badger Rock Community Center 9-8-2019

Regulatory Meeting with US Army Corps of Engineers; 8-28-2019

Regulatory/State Agency Staff Meeting with WiDNR; 8-26-2019

Interagency Staff Meeting #1; 7-24-2019

Community Input Meeting #1

A Community Input Meeting held on 6/26/2019 at the Vilas Park Shelter (1602 Vilas Park Drive) to introduce the project team, timeframe, discuss goals and objectives and describe the process. Materials promoting that session are followed by the items that were presented, below. 

Please contact if you have any questions regarding the meeting or would like to send comments/input to the project staff.

Project Objective

Throughout the master plan process, which is expected to continue through fall 2020, Parks will be asking for input on questions such as, “What do you love most about Vilas Park?”, “What would you change?” and, “How can the park best serve our whole community as Madison grows?”

The Vilas Park Master Plan will be a framework plan that will help to inform improvements at the park over the next 15-20 years. It will be a starting point for the development of future capital improvement projects that could add to, replace or improve amenities at the park including sport courts, playgrounds, fields, lagoons, beaches, parking, roadways, pedestrian paths and more! The plan document, along with a master plan report, will go through several stages of design driven by community input that will be reviewed by other city and county agency staff, working groups comprised of neighborhood, community and environmental affiliates, and eventually go to the Board of Park Commissioners for approval prior to being implemented.


The City of Madison Parks Division issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) through Finance/Purchasing in September 2018 to select a consultant team to begin the Vilas (Henry) Park Master Planning process in early 2019.  Consistent with City of Madison Purchasing guidelines, the RFP was located on the Demandstar and VendorNet websites under the "Vilas Park Master Plan" title and was posted for 4 weeks, with proposals due on October 3, 2018.  Following the submission deadline, the proposals (a total of six were received) were reviewed and scored by an interagency staff team and four of the proposals were selected to move forward to in-person interviews.  MSA Professional Services, Inc., who assembled a team including Urban Assets, LLC and Quinn Evans Architects, received the highest score following the interview component and started on the project in late May 2019. 

The master planning process for James Madison Park was greatly informative to Parks and its result, as well as lessons learned throughout the consultant selection process, public input meetings, and schematic and final design development phases helped to inform the Vilas (Henry) Park master plan RFP.

Prior to issuing the RFP, Parks worked with other city staff and a small group of citizen stakeholders to utilize the Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative (RESJI) Tool to help to analyze and inform the public engagement process for the master plan efforts and to help to inform the selected consultant(s) with its findings.  The results of the tool will be reviewed with the consultant selected through the RFP process.