Since the early 1970s, Madisonians have been talking wistfully about building a central park on the near east side. Next month, the city plans to finally break ground on that project (PDF).
Laura Whitmore, a spokesperson for the Madison Parks Division, says the city plans to start construction in September on the first phase of Central Park, which includes grading the great lawn and building the event area, restrooms and paths.
The park will eventually span three city blocks between Brearly and Baldwin streets along the railroad tracks and East Wilson Street.
Portions of the park could be ready for use next spring, Whitemore says. "When this is available for use is somewhat weather-dependent," she says. "The grass has to grow."
Ald. Marsha Rummel, who represents the neighborhood, has been working on the park since before she was elected in 2007. Rummel says that it will take a few years before the park is completely built, but that people will slowly be able to use parts of it. "Hopefully next year, if the FÃte de Marquette wants to go there, it should be ready."
The city is also getting ready to put out for bid the design of a skate park, which will be located on the eastern side of the park, near Baldwin Street.
Patrick Hasburgh of the Madison Skatepark Fund says his group has raised $535,000 of its $750,000 goal for the skate park. Of that, $300,000 comes from the city, $200,000 from the county and $10,000 from the Tony Hawk Foundation. The group is planning some fundraising events this fall, including concerts and an art auction, although details have not yet been finalized.
"We want to have a skate park that everyone can use, all skill levels, but also be unique to Madison [and be] a destination park," Hasburgh says. "We're raising good money so everybody in Madison can be proud."
The group hopes construction can start on the skate park next summer. Also in the works are an amphitheater, eco pavilion, community gardens, playground and pedestrian railroad crossing at Few Street.
The pace of construction for Central Park will likely be tied to available resources. Says Whitmore: "Like all plans, they're funding-dependent."