Korona Park: A back-to-nature experience
May 18, 2011 | 08:52 AMGeneva — It was about a quarter-acre of sloping, densely wooded land in northeastern Lake Como subdivision, a thicket of green among well-cared-for houses not far from Highway H.
John Packard, the town's Park Commission chairman, said these eight lots at the corner of Queen Road and Park Drive were slated for residential development. The catch was Walworth County zoning officials wouldn't let anyone build on it because of a stream which runs north-south along the property.
"In the past five years, the town has looked at about a dozen of these types of properties owned by people who wanted to donate them," Packard said.
And so begins the story of Korona Park, a property which Packard said had the greatest potential among the other undeveloped properties up for donation, the commission's biggest project to date.
"Korona was the one that had significant value because of its green space. … It was a quarter-acre that was completely overgrown," he said. "It was impenetrable."
Now, several trees and bushes remain. According to Packard, some of the native plants at Korona are rare. Packard said Bloody Butcher Trillium, a native plant, is listed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as a species of "special concern."
"It might no longer be found in the state of Wisconsin," Packard said.
These are some of the reasons why the intention behind Korona Park is for it to be a place to enjoy nature.
"It's a place where you can go, sit in the woods and watch the water flow," Packard said. "A lot of people don't realize the natural plants of Lake Como in general are very rich. There is a lot of diversity."
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The town accepted the land in fall 2009. By the next spring, Geneva town park commissioners and other volunteers cleared away the dense brush on the property.
Packard said the commission also identified every type of tree, plant and bush growing at the park so its members could decide what would stay and what would go. This was part of the commission's landscape plan for Korona.
"We took out invasive species like buckthorn and honeysuckle," Packard said. "We took out tons of low-value (plants) and left the nicer species — oaks, poplar and a couple of nice black walnut trees."
Last fall, the commission began planting some other trees in the park, including three maples and a pagoda dogwood. Packard said as of the end of April, three trees and one shrub were added. During the May 7 work day at Korona, the commission and volunteers were expected to install between 50 and 60 more shrubs and 250 saplings.
"We also seeded with a native woodland wildflower mix so over the next couple years there should be a good show in there," Packard said.
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That mix included Mayapple, Solomon's Plume and Crane's Bill.
Aside from relying on volunteers to help during these work days hosted by the commission, the park is possible in part by a grant the town received from the DNR.
According to Packard, the urban forestry grant provided $900 toward plantings and $500 to fund a public outreach component, which requires the commission to install identification markers highlighting different plant species. That's still pending, as is a path and a seating area, Packard said. He added he hopes the commission will have enough money left over in this year's budget to remediate the creek.
"The creek that runs through it is sort of ill-defined," Packard said.
Korona is one of three projects maintained by the commission. The others are the Duck Lake Nature Trail and Charlotte Peterson Park.
That other park lies at the corner of Highway H and Como Road, near the Town Hall. Packard said with this property, the commission "took an eyesore and a detriment and turned it into something which created a sense of community and welcome" at a key entrance point into Lake Como.
At Charlotte Peterson Park, there is a picnic table and several plantings, but Packard said it differs from Korona, which is something he called a "back-to-nature experience."
He said the commission continues to improve Charlotte Peterson Park and the Duck Lake Nature Trail, as well as Korona.
But these three projects share one common factor — nature. What about a place for children to play?
Packard said Cramer Park, which is maintained by the Lake Como Beach Property Owners Association, has some playground equipment on it.
He said he would love the opportunity to provide some kind of park which offers amenities such as baseball diamonds, barbecue facilities and a place for dogs to play.
But if that's going to happen, it wouldn't be at Korona.
"Unfortunately, Korona Park is not configured for that," Packard said. "The topography wouldn't permit it. (The park) is on a hill, and a shelter probably wouldn't be allowed by the county."
Aside from dealing with a $6,000 annual budget, the commission also has to work with what it's got — and what it can do.
"We're working within the parameters of what's legal (but) I do think we need a community area like what they have in Genoa City," Packard said.