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Group wants to reopen road: Golfers worry about vandals, noise

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
April 19, 2008
— A campaign by the Friends of Riverside Park to reopen the upper road has put them at odds with some of the park’s golfers.

Advocates of reopening the road, which was closed 12 years ago in response to rowdy behavior by youth, say the roadblocks dissect the park, cutting off some of the prettiest views in Janesville and messing with the functional and aesthetic design of the landscape.


But golfers worry that the road puts vehicles too close to Riverside Golf Course, inviting vandalism especially on the isolated 13 and 14 holes. Golfers say they have enjoyed the peace and lack of distractions since the road was closed. And safety becomes an issue with more people on the road.


Recently, the leisure services committee unanimously recommended that the road be opened, while the golf advisory committee recommended unanimously against it.


Now, council members Bill Truman and Amy Loasching have put the discussion on the Monday, April 28, agenda. Members also are expected to discuss reopening the wading pool.


The upper road was closed in 1996, when youth started hanging out in the park and causing trouble.


The temporary solution worked so well it continued, said Mike Williams, leisure services director.


People, up until now, had seemed satisfied with the road, Williams said.


Pam VanBrocklin of the Friends of Riverside Park said the speed bumps that were installed eliminated the speeding youth. The roadblocks are no longer needed, she said.


“We feel the upper road is the last great remaining feature,” VanBrocklin said, noting other features that have been closed, such as the pool and concession stand. “It’s so integral to our mission of revitalizing the park and keeping the original park and its functions intact.


“To us, it’s the most important thing.”


VanBrocklin recently led a Gazette reporter and photographer on a hike up the barricaded upper road, pointing out the four overlooks. One is at least 60 feet above the sparkling river below and overlooks the boat landing.


The newly pruned Lilac Circle is also on the upper road. The lilacs were planted with rare varieties by a Janesville garden club in 1927.


The friends spent more than 500 hours clearing the circle and hauling out debris. The pruned lilacs should bloom this spring.


The friends also are clearing scrub, debris and junk trees from the hillsides, with a goal of improving the view, the growth of the oak trees and beautifying the area. They’d like to build a pavilion at one of the overlooks.


The magic of Riverside Park is the total park experience, VanBrocklin said.


The park was designed with function and beauty in mind. The curves mimic the curve of the river and complete the park, she said.


Attractive barriers could be built to keep vehicles off the golf course and still allow a view, she said.


The barricades shut off about a third of the park from the motoring public, she said.


As for the noise, she said a train that cuts through the golf course makes more racket than the vehicles.


Closing the road “killed the park,” VanBrocklin said, adding that the park is for everybody, not just golfers.


Curt Terry, chairman of the Golf Course Advisory Committee, loves Riverside Park, too, and lauds the group’s efforts.


But as chairman of the Golf Course Advisory Committee, he is an advocate for Riverside Golf Course.


The golf group has proposed a compromise to open the road from the boat launch to Lilac Circle, where vehicles could turn around. That would not bring vehicles in such close proximity to the course, he said.


The golfers worry that reopening the road increases opportunities for vandals.


Prior to 1996, a chain-link fence couldn’t even keep the vandals and their vehicles from ripping up the course, he recalled.


Now that the road has been closed, the fence was removed and the golfers enjoy the improved aesthetics.


Vandals, of course, always can walk onto the course. But now, they have to walk up steep hills.


The golfers enjoy the peace and quiet that undoubtedly would change if vehicles were allowed once again.


They get their share of people honking and yelling along Washington Street, he said.


“It (is) definitely a positive,” Terry said. “People really like the fact that they are not hearing the traffic coming up.”


And, there is no chance of a golf ball hitting a vehicle coming around the corner.


Golf courses today must be vigilant in trying to capture the golf dollar, and every amenity helps, Terry said.


“Having a road go right through your golf course is not beneficial.”


Pool, road on April 28 agenda

Councilman Bill Truman wants the public to get a chance to talk about Riverside Park at the April 28 meeting.


The agenda is not yet available, but Truman at the last meeting asked that two issues be put on the upcoming agenda: reopening Riverside Park’s upper road and the wading pool.


Truman said in a phone call later that he would like public hearings on both matters.


Councilwoman Amy Loasching co-sponsored the agenda items.


The wading pool was closed in 2002 for budget reasons, while the road was closed in 1996 to stymie anti-social behavior of youth.


Truman said he’s been told that $25,000 would reopen the pool.


The Friends of Riverside Park has been asking the city to reopen the pool and road for at least two years. City officials had been hoping that the friends and the golf advisory committee could come to some sort of compromise about the road.


But Truman wants a decision made.


“Summer’s going to be here,” Truman said at the last council meeting. “ ... If we wait, summer’s going to be here and gone and we’re going to lose some opportunities.”


The April 28 council meeting begins at 7 p.m.


The wading pool, at least, stands a good chance of being reopened.


Three new council members said in a discussion about aquatics before they were elected that reopening the pool is something they would consider seriously.


Tom McDonald said he would reopen Riverside—depending on the cost—and Kathy Voskuil and Yuri Rashkin said Janesville should repair and maintain the aquatic facilities it has.



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