As you move around Wauwatosa, it is easy to see many people enjoying a wide range of outdoor activities and utilizing the city's many facilities, parks and open spaces. Despite those numerous existing assets, the city has commissioned a study to explore what can be improved and what the people would like to see in terms of available inventory and upgrades to our recreational spaces.
Wauwatosa 8th District Alderman Jason Wilke said it was long overdue but the city and the school district decided to conduct the study now due to expiring funding eligibility with the state. Early last spring The Lakota Group was selected and the urban planners quickly discovered that many people live in Wauwatosa because of the vast array of recreational assets that already exist.
"We are hearing that the parks that are in the Wauwatosa community are beloved," senior project manager Jeffrey Bransford said. "But there is potential for more in terms of the amount of park acreage that is being provided, particularly for active sports."
Creating a master plan
The task assigned to Lakota is to develop a master plan to address the future of the parks, trails, open spaces and recreation facilities within the city. This process will assess the existing condition of the community amenities as well as compare them against the community needs and national benchmarks. This information, along with input from the public, will help identify opportunities to improve the recreational offerings within the city, including enhanced parks and expanded or refined programming.
"The study is looking at facilities, green space, passive open space, playgrounds, trails - every type of recreation space you can think of and measured it against the national standards," said Paula Enders, Wauwatosa director of development. "It was an old plan that needed to be updated and we wanted to coordinate this with the school district."
The public is an active part of the process; that has included an online survey and three open houses, including a recent public discussion and open forum Oct. 12 at the library in city hall. It was at that forum that The Lakota Group unveiled the results of a look into what already exists and a start to the discussion of what will be recommended.
How Wauwatosa's parks measure up
"We spent the first part of this year assessing the existing conditions of parks and open spaces," said Sarah White, Lakota vice president. "We have taken that information and measured it against local and national benchmarks. We’ve done that for recreational amenities, open spaces and park programs and we’ve noted any excesses or deficiencies based on national standards. We did not find a lot of deficiencies, just a few."
The group found that the Wauwatosa area and its citizens have a higher-than-average propensity toward sport and leisure activity. Specifically, residents have a high potential to participate in active sports like golf, tennis, softball, soccer and tennis and fitness activities like swimming, jogging, walking for exercise, and yoga.
Trails, soccer fields important
At the Oct. 12 forum, Bransford said the feedback from the public included comments that there was a greater need for additional soccer fields due to the lack of available time for practices and games.
"They want to have more time on the fields; they want to be able to play longer, throughout the year and the season," Bransford said. "We are also hearing that trails are really important, and that the recreation department is doing a great job but there is potential to do more."
Milwaukee County Parks is undergoing the same process right now; that is also being conducted by The Lakota Group. Bransford is on that team as well, so they are simultaneously charting the direction of Milwaukee County and Wauwatosa parks and looking for areas of collaboration.
"I have five kids and they all have different interests," Wauwatosa resident Brad Cortright said. "Pool space, soccer facilities are my family's focus, but I like that they are looking at everything. It was interesting to see how they are benchmarking us versus other communities and setting standards like the amount of space per person."
Next up will be a third open forum where recommendations will be presented to the city, school district and the public. The exact date and time of the meeting has yet to be determined, but it is thought it will be held near the end of November.