Community contributions to city parks invaluable
To learn how to help in Janesville city parks, call Cullen Slapak, assistant parks director, at (608) 373-3406 or e-mail email@example.com.
Volunteers play a key role in the vitality of Janesville's parks. The city says numerous groups and individuals contributed hundreds of hours to the parks system every year. Kyle Geissler reports. You can read more in Thursday's Janesville Gazette.
JANESVILLE Tom Presny isn’t sure how Janesville parks would look if it wasn’t for thousands of hours and thousands of dollars donated by dozens of groups and individuals.
“We don’t have the funds to accomplish projects or the manpower they are providing,” the city parks director said.
“I would say some of the special interest projects probably would continue to get done. But I think a lot of our day-to-day park maintenance would not get accomplished,” he said.
At a time when the city parks division is being asked to do more with fewer employees, help from volunteers is increasingly important.
Presny said the community has stepped up to help maintain the city’s parks.
He quickly ticked off examples:
n Friends of Riverside Park have contributed more than 4,500 hours and $21,000 in less than four years.
n The Rock Aqua Jays over the last five years have given $84,500 in improvements, maintenance and repairs to the portion of Traxler Park it leases from the city for its water ski show site.
-- The Rock Trail Coalition has spent 700 hours and upwards of $3,000 the last two years to build a bridge over Markham Creek on the Rock River Parkway Trail in addition to maintaining the bike trail.
-- The Bower City Garden Club paid $2,100 for the renovation of a “Welcome to Janesville’’ sign at the entrance to the city in Palmer Park and planted flowers the club will maintain near the sign.
Others groups have made similar contributions to some of the city’s 64 developed parks. Among them are more than three-dozen community organizations, individuals and businesses involved in the adopt-a-park or adopt-a-trail programs, Presny said.
Even though the parks division annual budget has increased nearly $1 million since Prensy began directing the division 25 years ago, the city during the same period has added 1,000 acres to its parks.
“The community continues to add more parkland as well as open space or natural areas. If you look at a transition of five and 10 years ago to today, we simply have much more to do with fewer employees,” he said.
Park funding that has stayed the same—$1.42 million—the past three years, and Presny isn’t expecting an increase because of the down economy. That means the need for community volunteers will grow.
“They certainly are saving tax dollars in that a good number of hours provided are what I would call routine park maintenance. They’re out assisting us in work that we otherwise we can’t accomplish,’’ he said.
While the Aqua Jays don’t keep track of time spent maintaining or improving its leased facilities and grounds at Traxler Park, members put in thousands of hours, said Joel Shapiro, president of the organization.
Jean Sedor, a member of the Bower City Garden Club, hopes members’ efforts will prompt other community organizations to consider working with the parks division.
“We’ve been doing philanthropic things like sponsoring scholarships for kids going to college who specialize in landscape architecture, but I am more in favor of doing some things for the city,’’ she said.
Watching Riverside Park slide into disrepair is what motivated Friends’ members to unite and do something, said Pam Van Brocklin.
“When a community has something they are proud of, they want to see it taken care of. Like many groups in Janesville, who are all committed to their causes, we hope to be together long enough to accomplish all of our goals and maybe even some of our dreams,’’ she said.
For that, Presny is grateful.
“Janesville has not only become accustomed to having volunteers available, but dependent in that much of our work is in coordination or cooperation with volunteers and community organizations.’’