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Don't let Flatiron Park become a missed opportunity



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October 13, 2010 | 08:43 AM
If you listen to some people, Flatiron Park shouldn't be touched. They say "leave it alone," or "keep it the way it is."

But, when I look at the park, I see a missed opportunity. This 3-acre lakefront park that has been for years home to Venetian Festival, Music in the Park and so many family and ceremonial gatherings, could be so much more than what it is.

According to the "Annals of Lake Geneva: 1835-1897" by James Simmons and provided by the Geneva Lake Museum, the lakefront park was first created and called Willow Park in the late 1800s.

There were buildings on the site at one point, including one that burned down and was not replaced. Since that time, the name has changed and the gazebo, the Andy Gump statue and the Three Graces Fountain were erected.

Now, it is a park that looks old, abandoned and unused, especially in the center area. There is no focal point. And, other than when an event is held in the park, there is no real reason to walk anywhere except for around it.

For the past few years, the Lake Geneva Beautification Committee has envisioned more for this city park — walkways, a central focal area, an elevated stage, new gazebo and a splash water feature.

This is their vision for Flatiron, one which they have officially presented twice to members of the Lake Geneva City Council.

So far, their efforts have been nixed by members of the council and constituents who called their aldermen to voice opposition to any significant change to the park. But we all know that people who oppose changes are much louder than those who would be open to improvements such as the Beautification Committee's suggestions to Flatiron Park.

Contrary to those who called their aldermen, the park is in need of improvement and there's a plan on the table — one that's been worked on and talked about for years.

A few weeks ago, the hope was these additions and improvements in the park could be done during the Wrigley Drive closure for the bridge work this winter. And, that still can happen.

But, we as a community need to be willing to accept and embrace change. This seems to always be an issue in this community.

Many people have opposed improvements and additions in Lake Geneva over the years. People battled the bathroom facility on the west end of Library Park, the West End Pier, new intersection configurations on Main and Wells streets and Main and Mill streets, the Wal-Mart expansion, the building of Home Depot building and Newport West and the Edwards Boulevard extension.

Those were all good projects that helped move the city forward and this concept for Flatiron Park is no different.

That doesn't mean every aspect of the plan is good, but there is no question sidewalks are needed through the park. A focal point in the middle with some sort of stage area and a new gazebo all would be welcomed additions. None of these items appear to greatly affect the annual Venetian Festival, which is the biggest event held in the park.

All this can be done with Tax Incremental Financing district money which already has been collected.

There will be no future impact to the taxpayers for these improvements.

Although the price tag has been estimated at $500,000, removing such items as the splash water feature and an irrigation system will reduce the price considerably.

It's time for once to choose change and improvement over stagnancy and the past.

It's time to take advantage of an opportunity to improve one key aspect of the city at little to no cost to the taxpayers.

It's time to give Flatiron Park what it's been missing all these years and give it the new and fresh look it so richly deserves.

If we do, there will come a time when we won't remember the park as a missed opportunity.

Seiser is the editor of the Regional News.

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