by CHRIS ROGERS
The city of Winona’s proposed Comprehensive Parks, Open Space, and Recreation System Plan lays out the city’s vision for the future of outdoor recreation in Winona and all 32 of the city’s parks and recreation facilities. On Monday, the city’s Planning Commission will vote on whether to recommend the grand plan to the City Council.
The plan calls for the city to spend $23-$47.5 million over the next 10-15 years on repairs, upgrades, and new park infrastructure. It includes a slew of specific recommendations for each park (see sidebar) and several larger proposals.
One of the biggest projects and top priorities in the draft plan is the $3.2-million Bluff Traverse trail system. That part of the plan calls for new connector trails that would link Sugar Loaf to Garvin Heights and Garvin Heights to Holzinger Trails, making it possible for Winonans and visitors to hike, bike, snowshoe, or run all the way from Sugar Loaf to Holzinger Trails. City officials believe the ridgeline trail could become a regional attraction and stands a decent chance of winning a six-digit grant from the state. The plan would rearrange Holzinger Trails, decommissioning some trails and blazing new ones. City officials plan on creating a new system of world-class mountain biking trails, signing the trails, adding new parking areas and trailheads, and establishing backcountry campsites in the bluffs. The plan would require the acquisition of private land or easements for portions of the trails.
Another highlight of the proposal is a plan for a series of bicycle and pedestrian routes that would connect one park to the next and connect neighborhoods to parks. After the Bluff Traverse, a proposed route linking Wisconsin’s Flyway (Bicycle) Trail to Ahgaming Park, the core city, and the bluffs is the city’s number-two priority. “How do you get not only individuals coming on this [Flyway] trail system, but people who live in the core city to these spots?” Winona Parks and Recreation Community Services Director Chad Ubl said. “Well, you need, in a sense, a north-south vein.”
The Planning Commission and City Council got sneak peaks of the plan last month. Council member Al Thurley expressed both reservations about the major level of investment that the plan calls for — $15.5-$30 million in the next five years — and openness to some of the new revenue sources it proposes, including a local sales tax. The plan also suggests that the city consider local property-tax-funded bonding, a food and beverage tax, and state funding requests, among other sources.
Planning Commission member Peter Shortridge encouraged the city to think about the economic benefits recreation — especially capitalizing on Winona’s outdoor recreation potential — can provide. Winona is surrounded by terrific natural resources, Shortridge said. “We have a huge paddlesport resource here,” he stated. “It has a multiplier effect, potentially, on our economy,” he added.
The plan was produced largely by consultants and city staff with public input early in the process. The full plan was not completed and released until November 30. It is slated for final approval by the City Council on December 17.
The Planning Commission will meet on Monday, December 10, at 4:30 p.m. in the council chambers on the third floor of city hall. There is no public hearing scheduled for the parks plan, but the meeting is open for the public to attend. Contact information for Planning Commission members is available at www.cityofwinona.com/city-services/planning-zoning/planning-commission.
The future of local parks
The draft plan includes specific recommendations for all of the Winona’s parks. Some notable recommendations are listed below. For a complete list, a full version of the proposed parks plan is available at bit.ly/2DRsxDE or by visiting www.cityofwinona.com/city-services/parks-recreation.
∙ Work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a management plan.
∙ Develop year-round recreation opportunities including fat biking, cross-country skiing, boardwalk trails, and primitive campsites.
∙ “Facilitate the development and marketing of [boat and equipment rental] outfitters supporting tourist access to the parks.”
Bluffside Park (a.k.a. Holzinger Trails)
∙ “Further develop site as winter park with skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing.”
∙ Protect trails from erosion and address invasive species.
∙ Look for opportunities to partner with property owners to access or acquire additional land.
∙ Develop mountain bike trails and the Bluff Traverse trail system.
Bob Welch Aquatic Center
∙ Repair aging infrastructure.
∙ “Consider redevelopment of site for pump track [for mountain bikes or BMX bikes] and skate park plaza”
∙ “Add bouldering and [rock] climbing features.”
∙ The plan includes recommendations for the area underneath the interstate bridges and describes it as an important connection between Latsch Island and downtown.
∙ “Potential for skate park plaza and pump track [for mountain bikes or BMX bikes].”
East Recreation Center
∙ Upgrade aging infrastructure.
∙ “Explore commercial/incubator business kitchen.”
Gabrych and Sobieski parks
∙ Open ball field to the public.
∙ Add speed bumps to Wabasha Street between the parks or consider permanently closing the street.
∙ “Complete a full master plan for the park.”
∙ Convert Lake Lodge into “a two-story venue with patio seating, concessions, and additional storage” and an “outdoor recreation hub.”
∙ Consider a swimming beach.
∙ Improve pedestrian crossings at Highway 61.
∙ “Formalize parking and a trailhead, appropriately lit.”
∙ Develop kayaking, canoeing, trails, a ropes course, a beach, and more.
∙ Connect to Aghaming Park and downtown.
∙ “Improve pedestrian and bicycle access from downtown (widened shoulder or protective bike lane).”
∙ Remove deer park and deer park playground.
∙ Develop beginner mountain biking and hiking trails.
∙ Add primitive campsites.
∙ Formalize rock-climbing ordinance.
∙ Connect to Bluff Traverse trail system.
Westfield Golf Course
∙ “Consider alternative uses and features: cross-country skiing, disc golf, community center/fieldhouse, open gym space.”