Kennedy Park picked for handicapped accessible playground

DREAM PLAYGROUNDAt tonight’s Board of Park Commissioners meeting, Jeff Warnock, parks superintendent, stated that his recommendation for the location of Kenosha’s handicapped accessible playground is Kennedy Park.  Warnock said that he has worked with Tammy Conforti, the spearhead of the project, and they reveiwed three locations.  He and Shelly Billingsley, director of engineering, and Conforti took a ride to Port Washington to view the model for Kenosha’s playground in person.  That site is in a nice setting, on a bluff.  They wanted to try to duplicate it as much as possible and pick a lakefront location, one that would fit the footings of the playground.

South of the dead end of Washington Road was chosen so as not to block the sight of the lake, rather than the north side.  Homes are at street level there.    Other locations reviewed were Tot Park and Simmon’s Island.  “Of course,” said Warnock, the Park Commissioners would choose where it goes.  But, we felt that it was a centralized location, close to the museums, Scoops, Trolley Dogs, within walking distance,” said Warnock.

Conforti concurred with Warnock.  “The process of elimination started in October.  Jeff Warnock and Shelly Billingsley were enlightened when they saw Port Washington.  Just the maneuverability of the wheelchairs.  I was ecstatic to see that they attended.  Pictures just don’t do it justice.”  She asked about the additional steps in the process.  She is looking to expedite the process as much as possible.  As she goes around trying to obtain corporate sponsors, she’d like to tell them where their money will be used.

Eric Haugaard, alderperson of the 1st district, was present at the meeting to show his support, as well as Alderperson Scott Gordon.  Haugaard said that he spoke to a few neighbors in the area, and he is receiving no resistance from the neighborhood.  He stated that he’d like to support the project in any way he can.

Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia said that he is on the Board of Directors, and they are all in favor.  He said that he saw Port Washington, and we do need space.  Kennedy Park provides ample space.  He said that Conforti needs a commitment from the city.  She’d like to get a sign to place at the site, “Future Home of the Kenosha Dream Playground Project.”  Orth said that, because it is a non-profit organization, that no sign permit is needed.  Also, the sign will appear on park land, another reason why no permit is needed.  Conforti was instructed by Orth to work with Warnock on the sign.

Orth asked questions about other locations that were reviewed.  Some parcels of property were not owned by the city, like the property to the north, which is owned by the Madrigrano Family.  Others were not compatible with the Master Plan, like Simmon’s Island.  Orth asked if the southern tip of Kennedy Park could be used.  Warnock said that they didn’t discuss that park, but that they could move it all the way down to the south end.  Orth thought that, if they rotated it, that it would fit in the space, and it was closer to downtown.  But, he said parking lot improvements are needed.  The bathroom could be upgraded as well.

Orth said that he drove through the area with “new eyes,” and he said that he thought the road was in bad shape.  “It needs serious work or removal,” he said.  The cost of the repairs comes to the Parks Department because it is a park road.  There is some parking, but it is not handicapped accessible.  It is mostly grass and gravel.  “For the long-term, we need to think about Kennedy Drive sooner rather than later, within a year or two.  It’s in bad shape now.”  He said that he was okay with the location choice.

As far as the process is concerned, Orth said that the where the park equipment will be placed is the purview of the Park Commission.  The Common Council will not have to weight in on that.  “We don’t need to acquire any property.  We just need to implement the plan as part of the broader park plan.  The road, buildings, are part of a bigger process.  In 2014, we have money for a plan for Kennedy Park and the Pennoyer neighborhood.  The general park plan will integrate in with this,” he said.

Haugaard wanted to know if Pennoyer was considered at all.  The new area which has recently been excavated and graded.  Orth said that the 2014 park plan money is not earmarked.  It can be used in both Kennedy and Pennoyer Park.  The Commission is comfortable with Kennedy Park.  At the next meeting, the approval of the location will be on the agenda.  Today, the report was merely received and filed.

Orth then went on to talk about the conditions of the ground.  He didn’t think that Kennedy Park was the most stable.  “It was a garbage dump 100 years ago,” he said.  Billingsley said that a site investigation will be done regarding the grading and soil stability.  Orth said that, in a general sense, it will be Kennedy Park or the area north of there, as far as Pennoyer.  Ground work is still needed.

Alderperson Anthony Kennedy said that they are leaning toward Kennedy Park.  They will wait for engineering to do a site investigation and see if there are any issues.  The intention is that, in one month, there will be a greater sensibility of what it looks like, once the preliminary site investigation is completed.

The vote was 4 to 0 to receive and file the report.



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