UW-Madison course recommends turf maintenance improvements for Ahuska Park

While maintenance practices were deemed to be “excellent,” students provided options through which the City of Monona could further improve the quality of Ahuska Park’s fields


Devin R. Larsen


Shelly Strom, Marshall Curry


City of Monona, WI, United States
Community Size
8,045 (2018 Census Estimation)
University of Wisconsin - Madison
UniverCity Year
Case Type
Project Stories
EPA Region 5, USA

At 22 Acres, Ahuska Park is the City of Monona’s second largest park. The park is a communal hub for active recreation, with 6 of the 22 acres consisting of athletic fields, including a baseball diamond, a soccer pitch, and a football field.  

While the fields are regularly used by Monona residents, city officials want to ensure that park conditions are maintained to the highest caliber, from improving playing conditions to ensuring fields remain safe for use and to human health. 

The UniverCity Year program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an EPIC-Network member, was created to help local government and community partners with identified sustainability and livability projects. Participating University faculty incorporate community-identified projects into classes, and provide students with on-the-ground experience in support of a more sustainable and livable future for the partnered community. 

During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the City of Monona was chosen to partner with the UniverCity Year program due to its proximity to the university and for strong support from Mayor Bob Miller. 

Professor Soldat’s students get on the ground at Ahuska Park

The UniverCity Year program partnered UW-Madison’s Soil Science 332: Turfgrass Nutrient and Water Management course with the City of Monona to investigate current turf maintenance practices at Ahuska Park, as well as identifying areas for improvement. At the direction of Professor Douglas Soldat, students conducted reports on park maintenance, nutrient management, and irrigation practices to:

“Improve the playing conditions at the park, maintain safe playing surfaces, and ensure that the practices employed are safe to the public, and the environment (and in compliance with regulations) while staying within the Monona Parks and Recreation Department budget” (UniverCity Year project final report).

Identified room for improvements 

While “overall maintenance at Ahuska Park was excellent,” student reports identified areas where there were “opportunities for improving turf health, playing conditions, and safety in the areas of general maintenance, fertilization, and irrigation practices” (UniverCity Year project final report). 

Students develop multifaceted plan to better turf management 

Along with developing schedules for aeration, cultivation, fertilization, and seeding, students provided recommendations for turf improvements, which included:

  • Mowing the grass down to 2.5 inches
  • Using lawnmowers with sharper blades to increase consistency 
  • Spreading activities across fields to reduce turf wear
  • Restricting use of fields when conditions are either too wet or dry

Following the completion of this report, students hope that their proposed improvements might be implemented throughout Ahuska Park. One such suggestion provided by the students included the purchase of a particular kind of lawn mower, one able to mow grass to specific lengths with notable consistency. Thanks to this recommendation, the city purchased that particular piece of equipment, making the purchase part of the capital budget, to more effectively manage the cutting and management of Ahuska Park turf. 

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

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