UW-Madison students reimagine Winnequah Park to improve accessibility and diversity

Under the guidance of Professors Sam Dennis and Travis Flohr, students expand preservation efforts and both active and passive park opportunities

Author

Devin R. Larsen

Contributors

Shelly Strom, Marshall Curry

Metrics

Community
City of Monona, WI, United States
Community Size
8,045 (2018 Census Estimation)
University
University of Wisconsin - Madison
Program
UniverCity Year
Years
2016/2017
Status
Completed
Case Type
Project Stories
Region
EPA Region 5, USA

Among the City of Monona’s natural parks system, the 44-acre Winnequah Park is its “crown jewel.” Located in the middle of the city, Winnequah Park acts as a refuge from city life, both for Monona and nearby Madison, Wisconsin, residents. Park-goers are offered year-round recreational opportunities, including field sports through the summer and ice skating atop the frozen lagoon in winter. 

Yet for all of its incredible natural and man-made features, uncoordinated pedestrian circulation, limited event spaces, and seasonal flooding restricted residential access to the park. To increase accessibility to the park, along with restoring and preserving ecological communities within it, Monona officials would require expert landscape engineering planning assistance to reimagine and improve Winnequah Park. 

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. 

Students work to improve, diversify, and restore Winnequah Park

The UniverCity Year program partnered UW-Madison’s Landscape Architecture 451: Open Space Planning and Design course with the City of Monona to provide actionable engineering updates to Winnequah Park. With the guidance of Professor Sam Dennis and Professor Travis Flohr, students proposed design solutions which would “improve accessibility, diversify athletic and event spaces, and restore ecological communities throughout the park and along the shoreline” (UniverCity Year project final report).

To achieve this, students collaborated to synthesize Monona Parks and Recreation survey results into broad categories, from which improvements could be implemented. These categorized themes included: the human environment, the physical environment, and the socio-economic environment. 

Class produces wide-ranging recommendations for engineering upgrades  

Results obtained from students’ survey research indicated opportunities and constraints in Winnequah Park related to “transportation systems, environmental conditions, existing site programming, park user behavior, and social equity.” (UniverCity Year project final report) Students used these findings to create elaborate recommendations for engineering upgrades to be at the well-known Monona park. These included:

  • Stormwater management strategies and the reinforcement of the degraded shoreline
  • Wildlife habitat protection and the installation of natural shade
  • A system of walkways and paths to connect popular park features to one another
  • The creation of public spaces meant for gathering, learning and lingering, including a biergarten, kayak launch, orchard, and picnic area

Completed student designs play upon the successes of Winnequah Park while improving important characteristics of the park, from incorporating more diverse native ecologies to expanding recreational opportunities. Upon implementation of this reimagining, Monona should expect to see a reignition of recreational activity within Winnequah Park from local and regional residents alike. 

Read the full story of the partnership.

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

“Overall, Winnequah Park is used and loved by the community, but there are areas of improvement to make it more accessible, easier to use, and enjoy for all users.”