Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Slow road to creating a nature area

by Steve Targo

November 22, 2012

GENEVA — At first glance, the hillside lot at the corner of Park Drive and Queen Road looks like a future home site, a thicket of woods to the north, its clearings punctuated with strategically placed plantings. Spanning the lot are two jagged rows of those little red flags usually stuck in the earth to call attention to utility lines. In this case, the flags delineate a now dry, natural creek bed — the route that naturally flowing storm water takes on its way from Highway H down to Lake Como.

And the lot? That’s actually Korona Park.

In a way, the creek prompted the creation of the park. It also has prevented the Town of Geneva Park Commission from quickly taking what was once a nearly impenetrable wooded piece of property and opening it as a public nature area.

The dream is still slowly being realized, according to a few commission members. Vice Chairman John DeBaere and Treasurer Lynn Wesolek said they hope to complete this project by 2014.

“I’m envisioning, when this is done, kids picking up rocks and having their toy trucks in the dry creek bed, maybe a couple spreading out a blanket in one of the clearings and having a picnic,” Wesolek said.

But there’s work to be done.

“We’re exploring possibilities of remediating the creek,” said Mike Sarton, commission chairman. “It’s kind of out of control and semi-functional.”

DeBaere said the creek bed doesn‘t really direct water well during heavy rainfall and spring snow thaws.

“So we wanted to see what the estimate would be because we have no idea,” DeBaere said. “None of us has the expertise of coming up with a ballpark figure.”

“We figure it would be between $500 and $10,000,” Wesolek said.

This year’s budget for the commission was $2,000.

Park origin

The name Korona Park originates from the family which donated the property to the town of Geneva. The land itself is hilly, and with the creek running across it, the lot was considered unbuildable.

“We get requests from time to time to accept land (donations), primarily to get it off the tax rolls,” Sarton said. “Really, it’s a win-win situation. They get what they want and we get to establish green places in residential areas.”

The first task for the commission was to clear the property.

Wesolek said aside from making the lot easily accessible, there were a lot of invasive plants on the property. Sarton called it “unwalkable,” and there were noxious weeds there, too.

“Oh my gosh, the stuff we found,” Wesolek said. She, Sarton and DeBaere relayed tales of their discoveries while clearing the densely wooded area — roofing tiles, chicken wire, automobile tires, iron pipes.

“And then there was a lot of unpleasant stuff,” Sarton said.

“No bodies, though,” said Wesolek.

The trio laughed for a moment, then returned to the tale.

DeBaere said once the area was cleared, they rototilled it and planted seeds of native plant species.

But DeBaere and Wesolek said there was about a year’s worth of delay in simply finding out what the commission could do with the property. They said because of the waterway, they needed a determination from the state Department of Natural Resources. Wesolek said once the DNR established parameters, the commission was able to formulate a clear plan.

Another obstacle the commission still faces is funding.

“I think, were we to have more money, we would have been able to do more quicker,” Wesolek said.

Or to simply do more. There was talk about setting up benches and chairs at the park, but DeBaere said that actually would incur a great cost and require the town to meet a requirement that may not be feasible.

To place benches and chairs on the property, the town would be required to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. According to DeBaere, that means the town has to create a parking stall on the property.

“That expense is just beyond our ability,” Sarton said.

“The ground is so hilly (at the park). It would all have to be completely level,” DeBaere said. “As you can see, it almost all completely goes downhill.”

But it appears these limitations rather helped the commission sharpen its focus. The plan as it stands now: An open area with a defined pathway and two clearings, one on either side of the creek bed, linked by a foot bridge.

Until then, no grand opening.

“We want it presentable and usable before we dedicate it to the Korona family,” DeBaere said.