MILTON — Milton, get ready for the big splash.
After two years of planning, fundraising and a months-long period during which plans were put on hold, Milton's planned splash park is finally becoming a reality.
Contractors on Wednesday officially broke ground for the $350,000 project in South Goodrich Park on the east side.
If Madison contractor Advanced Construction has good weather, the splash park will be open by late July or early August, City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said.
The timing is important, too; the project comes as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation ramps up work on the Highway 26 bypass.
The bypass will funnel thousands of vehicles a day around the city—away from the east side downtown, where the splash park will be located.
Schuetz and other city leaders believe the splash park is one of several public-private developments that could help bring traffic, commerce and family activities to the east side in the wake of the bypass.
Other projects include the Parker YMCA on the south side, which is slated for completion in November, and a pending plan to expand the Milton Public Library.
"It's an exciting time for us," Schuetz said of starting construction on the splash park. "It is a project that's been on the horizon for a long time. Now it's moving into the home stretch. It's one part of what Milton right now is doing—putting pieces of a puzzle together to create its own assets and create features that will make the city a community of destination."
A public-private fundraising effort by the city, the school district and an ad hoc citizens committee will continue as the project moves forward.
To date, fundraising efforts have netted about $51,000 in private donations and corporate pledges, according to city records.
For the rest of the cost, the city has allocated tax increment financing funds. Construction and landscaping costs are expected to total about $240,000, Schuetz said.
The cost is within the initial estimates by the city—about $100,000 less than quotes for the work that came in last year and led to the city council shelving the project for a year.
The city already has purchased the park's amenities at a cost of about $110,000. Schuetz said ongoing fundraising will pay for additional features, landscaping and site improvements that could come after construction of the splash park is complete.
For residents who wonder what the splash park will look like, Schuetz gave a teaser. A 4,000-square-foot slab in the southwest corner of South Goodrich Park will house the splash park and its 10 user-activated features, which include:
-- A large sculpted "water bug" creature.
-- A water cannon, a fountain, a sculpted flower and a standing loop, all of which will splash and spray water when in use.
-- A large water tower that dumps water as it fills up and a foaming geyser.
As part of the project, the city is using an existing gazebo near the splash park as a public use building and concession stand.
The city also is tearing out a cross street that runs diagonally to the southwest tip the splash park, between parking areas along Parkview Drive and East High Street.
Schuetz said some east-side businesses are excited because they believe the park will draw in new business as families from the north end of Janesville and the lake resorts and campgrounds north of Milton come to the park.
He said a few businesses have expressed concern that the splash park could cause parking congestion along Parkview Drive. Schuetz said the city addressed that issue by adding 10 parking stalls in a lot directly west of storefronts along Parkview Drive.
The city this month could discuss adding more parking along Parkview Drive, and he said the plan commission in June will discuss stiffening regulations for mobile food vendors, who Schuetz said could gravitate downtown to take advantage of crowds at the splash park.
"We know this kind of park amenity could attract those businesses," Schuetz said. "We're balancing the city being welcoming to businesses with issues of parking (availability) and public safety."
The splash park will be linked straight to the city's water utility to draw fresh water. A transfer system at the splash park will chlorinate wastewater and funnel it through a wastewater line to a detention pond east of downtown, officials said.
That could save the city about $100,000 in construction costs compared to a closed-loop water treatment system at the splash park that the city had considered earlier.
However, it will require additional infrastructure work to link the splash park to the detention pond.