City looks to improve its parks

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BELOIT - The Beloit Parks, Recreation and Conservation Advisory Commission is putting the winter blues behind and looking ahead to warmer months as it looks to improve city parks and facilities.

The commission will discuss various changes to Beloit's parks system during its meeting Wednesday, from adding a splash pad at Vernon Park to improvements at Big Hill Park by the Welty Environmental Center.

The meeting will be begin at 6:30 p.m. at the operations and parks facility, 2351 Springbrook Court.

A late amended agenda item was added Monday that will see commissioners discuss the possibility of establishing a public park on the vacant city-owned property at 2217 St. Lawrence Ave., listed on the agenda as the Hanchett-Bartlett Public Park proposal.

• Splash pad: The commission will discuss the possibility of placing a splash pad at the Brooks Street Park.

• Shelter: The shelter at Eagles Ridge is expected to be configured as a two-tier roof, according to the commission's agenda.

• Big Hill Park improvements: In December, the commission accepted a proposal from the Welty Center to revamp the area.

The wildlife center is proposing a "collaborative partnership with the city to help improve the natural resources" available to Stateline Area residents at the park. Suggestions include prairie restoration around the park's Big Hill Center facility, adding interpretive signage for the park, a pollinator garden, additional trail signage and improve waterfront access at the park, according to the proposal.

With the commission's approval, the projects could be developed and supervised by Welty, and to also include input from the public. The center will be "responsible for the majority of the fundraising" to support the improvements, while also organizing a volunteer labor force to construct the changes, the proposal summary said.

Welty has served the Beloit area for 17 years, brining environmental education programs to residents, reaching up to 6,000 participants annually. Over 100 school groups frequent Welty as an educational resource yearly.

The city's Capital Improvement Program calls for various Big Hill Park improvements to coincide with the proposed changes. By 2020, the city will look to construct and pave the second phase of the Beloit-Janesville Bike Trail in the park, adding 1,300 feet of new path.

• In 2019, the city could spend $20,000 on a ski jump historical marker or memorial at the park for its past as a renowned training site and general sign improvements with a combined total of $30,000, according to the CIP budget.

• A woodland trail retaining wall could be added for $80,000 in 2020.

• $10,000 of amphitheater renovations in 2021.

• Adding native prairie and shade trees by 2022 for $75,000.

All CIP funding plans are estimated projections of priorities established on an annual basis, not concrete allotments made beyond the current fiscal year and are subject to change.

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