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Taking care of infrastructure not just a walk in the park

By Jan Basina

Last week I blogged about a new city park being resurrected in the middle of Wausau. So this week, when a report by The Trust for Public Land came across my desk chock full of interesting tidbits of about urban parks in 85 of the largest U.S. cities, I had to bite.

Construction of Como Regional Park Pool Project, St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minn.

The report, 2010 City Park Facts, is a collection of statistics on urban park acreage, spending, staffing and facilities. City park systems profiled in the report serve 58 million urban residents, offer 11,160 playgrounds, 9,167 ball diamonds, 1,349 swimming pools and 400 public golf courses.

And two Wisconsin communities are among the 85 largest U.S. cities. Facts are included for Milwaukee County parks and Madison parks (city of Madison and Dane County).

For instance, did you know:

• Milwaukee has 15,037 acres of park land and Madison, 5,278 acres;

• Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square is ranked among the oldest parks in the report, established in 1835;

• Madison’s Orton Park, which opened in 1850, also made the list.

New York City’s Central Park comes in at No. 1 on the Most Visited Parks list with 25,000,000 visitors per year. But Lincoln Park in Chicago is second, hosting 20,000,000 visitors per year. And closer to home, 500,000 people visit Madison’s Warner Park per year, the only Wisconsin city park to make the Most Visited list.

Our national parks may be America’s national treasure. And they are, indeed, magnificent in their grandeur. After all, who has not enjoyed a picnic in a park, swam in a municipal pool, ran bases on a dusty ball field, joined in a pick-up game of basketball, lobbed a ball over a tennis court, or watched the kiddies swing, slide and scale the playground apparatus (I’ll call it apparatus because in no way does it resemble the treacherous, cold- steel monkey bars I bravely maneuvered). And what about all those the Fourth of July holidays, fireworks and music concerts in the park.

According to The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization, the parks systems in the biggest cities suffer from at least $6.4 billion in deferred maintenance.

We must be aware that we need to invest in our urban parks as they are no different from any other infrastructure. Without proper construction and care, we run the risk of denying generations to come of the memories that so many of us fondly hold in our hearts.

Let’s not take this gift for granted.

Jan Basina is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She can be reached at (414) 225-1817.

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