Janesville66°

City uses grants to improve parks

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
October 14, 2011
— As Janesville improves its inner-city housing, it makes sense to improve the amenities there, too, a neighborhood services staff person says.

Look West and Fourth Ward Neighborhood Action Team recently had their wishes—including basketball courts and a pavilion—granted using money from federal community block grants.


The city spent almost $2 million to improve housing in the neighborhoods, but neighborhood amenities are important, too, said Kelly Lee, city staff liaison for the action team.


Parks with pavilions and basketball courts are pluses when people look to buy housing, Lee said.


The city's neighborhood services, parks and engineering departments all had hands in completing the projects.


Finishing touches recently were put on two full-size basketball courts in Monterey Park. The courts were created in an area east of the stadium that contained three tennis courts in disrepair and a half-sized basketball court, also in poor shape.


The new courts cost about $35,000, Lee said. The pavilion and drinking fountain, built earlier this year at Washington Park, cost about $12,000. The fountain has a spigot for residents to water the community garden there.


The basketball courts rose to the top of the Fourth Ward wish list because many had observed groups waiting to use the half court.


Billy Bob Grahn, head of the action group, said the court was heavily used on summer nights and weekends. Teams brought family members and picnicked as they waited.


But the court was not in good shape, he said.


"It was kind of amazing, their self-organization," Grahn said. "So, I put that on my wish list."


Full-size courts caused problems in neighborhood parks in the past, when players pointed vehicle lights at the courts and played after dark, disturbing nearby residents.


Tom Presny, parks director, said police suggested the courts be unlighted so play ends at dark. A fence was built to separate the court from the parking area so players cannot drive their vehicles adjacent to the court.


"Just because something didn't work one time at one location, that doesn't say we can't invest in these neighbors," Lee said.


The courts were improved with concrete so they would last longer, Presny said.


"From a recreational standpoint, we're excited to have outdoor basketball in the park system," Presny said.


A handful of full-size courts are in city parks, such as in Nantucket Park on the east side.


Residents also asked for the pavilion in Washington Park. Playground equipment was upgraded and picnic tables made available.


The neighbors had asked for a gathering place for activities, and Lee said the pavilion has become popular during warmer months.



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