Shawn Kelly

Consultant Shawn Kelly presents his plans Feb. 25 for a renovated Lions Park and a new park on Theatre Road during a special meeting at Williams Bay Village Hall. (Photo by Chris Schultz/Regional News)

WILLIAMS BAY — Lions Park would change completely and a new park baseball and softball park would be established on Theatre Road, under a consultant’s plan for upgrading public recreation facilities in the village.

According to plans presented to the village board’s Parks and Lakefront Committee, Lions Park would get a dog park, the community garden and playground would be expanded, and the baseball diamond would disappear.

At a village-owned site on Theatre Road, a baseball and softball park would be created with four ball diamonds, with a mile-long pedestrian path connecting the new as-yet-unnamed park with Lions Park at 99 Stark St.

Consultant Shawn Kelly, a landscape architect and owner of Kelly Design Group in Williams Bay, presented his plans Feb. 25 during a special committee meeting at the village hall.

Village President Bill Duncan was positive about the plan, saying that it would address chronic flooding problems at Lions Park.

“Conceptually, I like it,” he said. “It’s a good solution to the flooding problem.”

The village hired Kelly Design Group in June 2018 for $55,500 to do the park design and related tasks for the Lions Park project.

Duncan said he joined village staff and the parks and recreation department to talk with Kelly in general terms about what the new Lions Park should look like.

The most important part of the plan is what is beneath the ground, Kelly said.

“We have to manage the water first,” he said.

Kelly said that Lions Park and a large part of the village is built on a peat bog, which is a wetland with soft, spongy earth. The park and its baseball field have always been subject to flooding during heavy rain and run-off from surrounding properties.

Kelly’s plans call for underground cisterns that would hold storm-water run off, giving it time to seep back into the ground. The cisterns would be designed to hold more than 18,600 cubic feet of water. The base of the cisterns would be 18 feet underground.

A similar cistern system would handle the flooding that occasionally occurs at the Theatre Road park as well.

Costs and starting dates for the park improvements have not yet been presented.

Duncan said the next step is to have Village Engineer Doug Snyder meet with the recreation department and Kelly to consider “the sticker shock” of potential costs. Snyder said he will need to take soil borings and collect additional information before he can complete a cost estimate.

Duncan joined Parks and Lakefront Committee members Marsha Engquist, Jim Killian and Don Parker and village board trustee Greg Trush at the special meeting.

Enquist, who chairs the committee, said she was excited about Kelly’s plan.

The process to reach this point took about three years, Enquist said. She said the parks committee was looking at having the best use of its park lands.

Having a baseball field in Lions Park is not the best possible use of the land, because of the flooding issue, she said.

Parker, who chairs the village board’s Finance and Personnel Committee, said the park plan, if adopted by the village board, would have to be implemented over time. The village will probably have to borrow and make the park improvement a part of a capital improvements budget, he said.

“We do roads and sewers and work with engineers, and we do it in five-year chunks,” he said.

Engquist said the village also needs to build partnerships with community groups, like the Williams Bay Lions Club, to make the new park come true.

Kelly’s plan covers nine acres of Lions Park and 14 acres of the Theatre Road property.

Change in the appearance of Lions Park would be dramatic.

In addition to expansion of the playground and community garden and the creation of a dog park, the park equipment and activities would be placed in circular nodes along an eight-foot-wide walking path.

Park activities, including stationary bicycles and other playground and exercise equipment for adults and children, would be located on nodes that would be connected by the park’s pedestrian pathway, Kelly said. The nodes would vary from 20 to 80 feet across.

There are seven nodes visible on the drawings of plans for Lions Park.

But other nodes would be located along the path that travels roughly south and west from Lions Park, past the village hall and to the Theatre Road park about a mile away.

The pathway would be paved with a hard, but permeable surface, Kelly said. The plan also includes a similar surface in the dog park for dog owners.

“Studies show that people don’t want to get their feet wet,” he said.

Kelly said the path from Lions Park to the new Theatre Road park already exists. All that needs to be done is a little grading along a hillside.

“Zero trees are harmed,” he said. “It follows the path that’s already there.”

According to Parker and Kelly, the first phase of the park plan would probably be constructing the new baseball park on Theater Road. It would be the easiest part of the plan to complete, Kelly said.

Kelly said the existing parking lot used for the Lions Park field house would be paved and re-striped, which would add to the number of available parking spaces.

Engquist said that Kelly has worked hard on the plan.

“I know that Shawn spent more hours than he ever claimed,” she said.

Engquist said she believes the proposed plan has the support of the village board at this point.

Five of the seven board members were at the meeting, she said, adding, “No one was stamping their feet and shouting ‘no.’”

Chris Schultz has been a reporter for more than 40 years. He has been with the Lake Geneva Regional since 2010. He covers the Lake Geneva City Council and the Lake Geneva area schools.