No Hibernation Allowed!

Elver Park is a beautiful park of 235 acres shaped by glaciers, so it is heavily wooded and very hilly. Elver Park is a perfect location for both recreational skiing and serious training for many of the competitive events in Wisconsin.

Through a partnership with our local XC ski organization, many family, youth and adult racing events are scheduled at Elver Park. This partnership has also greatly expanded our fleet of snow grooming equipment and this organization took the lead in raising funds for trail lighting. We believe that we are only one of two lighted trail locations in the southern half of our state.

People come from as far away as Chicago to train at Elver Park in the evening. User fees, along with equipment rentals and food and beverage sales, cover a large part of our operating expenses.

The shelter building at Elver Park is used for picnics and summer-programmed day camping during the summer months, but during winter sports we have a concession area and equipment rental area (skis and skates), restrooms and a large warming area. It is an enjoyable place to be for skaters, XC skiers and sledders, and is a year-round building that is well designed.

Along with our winter sports operations, our park crews do a lot of other winter work such as bike path snow and ice maintenance. And yes, I did say bike path snow and ice maintenance.

With 40,000 college students here and a large number of year-round bike commuters who use their bikes to get to work in our downtown area, there is an expectation that all of our paved bike trails be maintained in top conditions regardless of the winter weather conditions. This includes 4 a.m. plowing and salting operations so that the trails are safe for the morning “rush hour” and then keeping the routes in top shape through late evenings. Sometimes, our bike paths are in better shape than the city streets, which gets some notice from the automobile drivers!

It is amazing to see significant numbers of riders out on very cold and windy days. A lot must have to do with better clothing or the high cost of parking in our downtown!

Our biggest problem relates to all the city streets that our trails cross and all the snow and slush pushed off the streets onto the curb cuts that connect the trails with the street for crossing without going down a curb.

The street snow and slush mean that we have to keep going back over out trail routes to keep them open and to avoid having a frozen row of snow at our path openings.

It’s not just Parks that does trail snow removal. Our Engineering and Streets Divisons also do some bike routes, depending on which agency is the closest, and Parks also does some street routes because we are closer.

The team meets every fall to review the plowing assignments and make adjustments so that the division that is the closest gets the right routes. It will all be on GIS after this winter, and will include sidewalks on bridges, pedestrian ways in neighborhoods, and so on.

Active winter sports are a way of life for many of us in this climate. Even new people to Madison quickly join in the fun. A typical winter day here offers clear blue skies, tolerable air temperatures, crisp fresh air and bright sunshine to pull you outdoors.

Nothing is more special than being the first person out to snowshoe though a fresh sparkling snow fall in the woods. Madison parks make sure to offer four seasons of outdoor fun!

Jim Morgan is Madison’s superintendent of parks.

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