Janesville77°

Happy birthday! Friends celebrate Riverside Park’s 90th

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staff, Gazette
July 15, 2012

— Thanks to a dozen active members and scores of volunteers, Janesville residents can look forward to another 90 years of enjoying Riverside Park.

“We almost lost it,” said Pam VanBrocklin, a past president and founding member of Friends of Riverside Park. “Today, we are just stepping back and celebrating this great gift we have.”

The Friends’ Party in the Park Saturday featured children’s games, shuffleboard, splashing in the wading pool and free cake and ice cream.

VanBrocklin was on hand to discuss the park’s history and what Friends will be doing to make sure the park is around for another 90 years.

“When we started Friends in 2006, we had a long list of things to do,” she said. “We have been able to accomplish a lot on that list.”

Completed projects, mostly in the north end of the park, include:

-- A new roof on the north pavilion

-- Restoration of the north bathrooms

-- Renovation of the shuffleboard courts

-- Resurfacing of the tennis courts

-- Opening the wading pool

-- Opening the upper drive and Lilac Circle

The next major project for Friends is a north boat pier.

“We have rejuvenated the north end, but there’s no river access,” VanBrocklin said. “We want to provide a pier that boaters can use to come into the north end.

“It will be an opportunity for boaters to visit the concession stand, the pavilion and bathrooms,” she said. “It just opens up the park that much more.”

VanBrocklin displayed her research work on the history of Riverside Park.

“I’ve just completed the first 10 years, and I already have three big notebooks with information including old stories from The Gazette and minutes of council meetings,” she said.

What started out as a private site for dancing became the city’s first park with a tie vote by the council requiring Mayor T.E. Welch’s tiebreaker vote in 1922. The vote authorized the city to spend $25,000 for 133 acres just north of the city limits.

The park now spans 230 acres with 87 acres of parkland and 143 for the golf course.

“We haven’t won the lottery yet, so we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing,” VanBrocklin said. “The important accomplishment is that we stopped the decay of this great park. We have made significant improvements with more to come as money becomes available.”



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