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A New Playground for Tenney Park



In 2017 the playground within Tenney Park, near the lagoon and shelter house, will be re-imagined and the play equipment will be replaced. I've been anticipating this, as have others. Tenney Park is historically and geographically unique and many people feel strongly that this is an exciting opportunity.

The City of Madison Parks Department maintains 174 playgrounds (more playgrounds per capita than any other city!) and landscape architects lead the process of replacing playgrounds. For Reynolds Park, and for Tenney Park, Sarah Lerner has been the point person for neighbors and leads the city's planning.

Playgrounds are just one part of a larger conversation about PLAY that cross-cuts through a bunch of fields in addition to landscape architecture - physical education, design, public art, environmental education, childhood development, human psychology, urban planning and probably more - and I've wished I had infinite time and resources so that I could skip around and try out some new career paths. Instead I created Madison Playground Review so that I could dip my toe in the waters while exploring the city with my kids.

In an earlier post, The Potential of Play Spaces, I admitted that writing about about playgrounds does make me feel boring, in that Mommy Blogger way, partially because so many playgrounds are so darn boring. 

But if you believe in the value of public space and city parks, you feel good in nature, and you get a kick out of innovative and artful design, playgrounds are part of the solution. 

Most playgrounds provide a pretty standard set of structures. Kids expect them and aren't complaining, at least not outright. However, experts in these things explain that there are actually fewer injuries, and kids are more engaged and getting more out of the experience, when the play spaces are different. 

And there are in fact lots of examples of different. A search for 'natural,' 'innovative,' 'inspired,' or 'cool' playground' to see some great images. Or check my Examples of Play Spaces Around the World.

Play spaces around the world today are providing public experiences with innovative design and nurturing the notion that we all need more playfulness. The thing is, the U.S. has a lot of rules and regulations. 

Which is how Sarah Lerner began the public meeting with neighbors interested in Tenney Playground's remodel. She has worked for the City for many years and is very familiar with the policies in place and why they work for the greater good. However, she is also an expert in landscape architecture and knows just how special Tenney Park is, and how ripe Madison is for an innovative, inspired, cool playground. She is excited because the neighborhood is also excited and ready to work with her.

The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association created a survey to assess what neighbors want in area parks. From over 100 responses, the top priority was to "construct a natural play area or ‘living’ playground in Tenney Park." (Survey results are here).

When I asked my kids what they wanted to see at a new Tenney Park playground, they gave me these suggestions:

-A little bowling alley
-A Merry-go-round
-A Teeter-Totter
-A May Pole (Why didn't I think of this!!!?! We could really use it!)

In reality, the sky is not the limit. The City has contracts with vendors and, based on the budget allowed for each project, a couple of options are sketched out after neighbors have been asked for general preferences. In the case of Tenney Park, several designs will be presented for public input in the next couple months before construction begins in 2017. These designs will respond to the concerns and ideas brought to the initial meeting (it was on November 16th at Whitehorse Middle School) and present a spectrum of options.

So stay tuned for more information so you can voice your opinion! And spread the word. This opportunity will not come up again soon so let's make Tenney Playground all we want it to be, for the kids and for the neighborhood and for the love of play.





Back to School: A History Lesson and a Song

My daughter just started first grade at Lapham Elementary School. I am usually the one to walk her down the street for the 7:45 morning bell. We descend on the classic brick school building as part of a gentle flutter of activity, a scene involving bicyclists, pedestrians, dogs, strollers, and curb-side drop-offs. The buses empty kids into the playground. 

Often, after my daughter is inside and her day has begun, I am still standing outside on the sidewalk deep in conversation with neighbors and other parents. This morning meeting is a nice way to start the day. I've found my cohort to be impressively engaged in the community, particularly the school community, and I learn a lot from them. 

The collective consciousness remembers that Lapham Elementary was once closed down due to lack of attendance. For me, this somewhat recent history has felt vague. 

My internet searches to sleuth out these dates led me repeatedly into the well-organized and easily accessible TLNA Newsletter archives. Volume 1, Number 1 of "Tenney/Lapham News" was published in September 1976. Exactly forty years later, I am humbled by the history in those pages, and by the neighborly care, concern, and commitment expressed by the writers over the years. 

Lapham Elementary School was closed for a decade, from 1979 to 1989. Today Lapham is part-one of the elementary school experience for neighborhood kids. After 2nd grade, kids attend Marquette Elementary on Jenifer Street, which is conveniently where they continue for 6-8 grades at the attached O'Keefe Middle School. In 2007, there was a highly controversial consolidation plan that would have closed Marquette (and moved all those kids into the Lapham building), but the plan was not passed.

Last week, on my way to a potluck, I stopped in to Cork and Bottle on East Johnson Street for a wine recommendation. Jim Wright, the owner, was behind the counter with his brother, as I expected he would be. I was glad for the chance to thank him for a generous gift Cork and Bottle recently made to Lapham Elementary. 

The local liquor shop consistently supports the school. Two years ago, I got to know Jim and former C&B owner Teena Browder as we worked together to migrate the annual neighborhood party to nearby Reynolds Park. For years, the Block Party was organized and hosted by Cork and Bottle. Any donations made by those enjoying free beer and home-made potato salad were given directly to Lapham. I don't know when that Block Party started....I'll have to ask Jim next time I see him.

The Block Party at Reynolds Park took place in June 2016, following up from the first one in 2015. We have been explicit about raising money for the school with this new version of the block party, along with funding special projects in our neighborhood parks (Reynolds, Tenney, and James Madison Parks and the Yahara River Parkway).

If you don't have kids in school, you may think that Cork and Bottle is the heart of the neighborhood. Jim remembers the years when Lapham Elementary School was closed, and he remembers how the neighborhood felt during those years. He says it was depressing. He feels strongly that the school is the heart of this neighborhood. Now that my daughter is a student, I now know what he means. 

Located in a highly urban neighborhood with around 30% home-owner-occupancy, the school feels to me like a space where students and parents feel a connection to place. When I was a new parent, I was told by other parents that Lapham was 'a good school.' A year in, I understand that to mean, at least in this case, that it is an active and highly-engaged school community.  A 'good' elementary school in the United States in 2016 is probably, generally speaking, a school where parents get to know each other and the school culture is one where parents' ideas are heard and respected. That is what I've found at Lapham. 

The year my daughter started school, the kindergarten classes were just at capacity. This year, enrollment has increased enough that there is an additional - a fourth - kindergarten class. With 1,000 new dwellings expected in the area in the next year, the "good' school will probably be part of the draw for these new residents.  

Happily there are still lots of neighbors, like Jim Wright and Teena Browder, who know the history of the area and feel a connection with the school. The principal, Tammy Thompson Kapp, recently told me a story: She was out for dinner at Pasquals. When the waiter learned she was the principal at Lapham, he burst into song:


Three cheers for Lapham 
Three cheers for Lapham 
Three cheers for Lapham 
The school for me
Our school is really cool
It even has a pool
Now here’s our pledge of loyalty
About school spirit
You’ll see and hear it
Shout it til the rafters ring
Ding Ding Ding
Three cheers for Lapham Lapham Lapham School
Oh Lapham
To thee I sing

My four-year-old already knows the words. 




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"When they go low, we go high" - My Thoughts on Trees & Politics

"When they go low, we go high"


Michelle Obama's DNC speech worked on me.

I've been reminded of the importance of scripting a positive story. I've been reminded of how important we are as role models for our children. I've been reminded that the stories we tell, about ourselves as individuals, families, and communities, matter.

This article in The Atlantic explains the field of Narrative Psychology by saying people use stories to make meaning. To biologists, we are storytelling animals. To humanists, things like language, literature, philosophy, and ethics, are disciplines of memory and imagination that tell us where we have been and help us imagine where we might go.


For example, here are two stories we might tell our kids:

The Emerald Ash Borer blight destroyed the tree canopy of Madison's historic downtown neighborhoods and was a huge loss for the environment, property owners, and general morale of the city.

OR


The Emerald Ash Borer blight gave city planners the opportunity to replace ash trees that had been trimmed to the point of ill-health since the increase of electric voltage in power lines and to diversify the canopy while moving power lines underground.



Ash Trees in Wisconsin

National politics are buzzing, but on a local level I'm following along with the Madison Canopy Street Trees Facebook page

Some local news coverage tells part of the story. Neighbors have been meeting regularly and are gaining attention. A petition asks city planners to change the policy to plant only short trees under power lines (sign it here). 

Two years ago, before the Emerald Ash Borer was spotted right downtown, Ash trees in city parks could be 'saved' from removal plans if private funds were raised to pay for treatment.

The story goes like this: with organized effort and local fundraising, the TLNA neighborhood came together to take care of the trees in Tenney and Reynolds Parks.

Unfortunately this adoption option is not available for trees in street terraces.

Efforts now are focused on changing the strict policy against tall trees in terraces with above ground power-lines, as well as localized fundraising to put lines underground in certain instances.


'Keep the Canopy. Bury the Lines' T-shirts are for sale for $25 from the Street Tree Committee.
Leave a comment if you would like to order one.

A friend who has been keeping me abreast of this developing story said in an email recently, "Best news in months! The Sustainable Madison Committee voted to create a sub-committee on Street Trees. It's still going to be a long, long, long haul, but this is a great step."

I love that hopefulness in her story. In a phone conversation, she told me that public momentum is building and it will force a policy change. I believe it, and I believe we all need to get behind this story until it is true.


Why Trees Now? Because...

-Trees produce oxygen and absorb carbon

-Trees reduce energy costs and create shade

-Tress absorb rainfall during storms

-Trees make us happy

-Trees make our city charming and livable

-We want to be part of a city that demonstrates wise leadership and creates forward-thinking policy


The new Street Tree Committee it meeting later this month. They are looking for neighborhood liaisons and people willing to write a story for the city where trees and people win. 

Right now, if you feel compelled, contact your Alder. Let him or her know you support changing policies and funding partial utility under-grounding in order to facilitate preserving and replanting canopy trees in our street terraces. And it always helps to go to your neighborhood council meetings. There you can also get ideas and learn more about what's happening in your neighborhood.

I understand that when we are faced with challenges, all we can control is our reaction and the way we shape the narrative as we go forward. So as it applies to both the remarkable 2016 presidential election and our remarkable urban forest, "When they go low, we go high." 

In both cases, it seems we are scripting the story for generations to come.


Neighborhood Block Party in Reynolds Park 2016: A Photo Summary


This year's Party in the Park was from 1-5 on a Very Hot day in June. Hundreds of people relaxed under the shade of the old trees and enjoyed some good company. 

 Party in the Park is our neighborhood block party. But in the tradition of east side festivals, it is also a fundraiser for the elementary school and local park efforts. And, like the early Marquette Waterfront Festivals, it is an effort to revitalize a park that has maybe been overlooked at times, but that now sits in the heart of a vibrant and growing neighborhood.

The goals of the event, for the organizing committee and 
the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, are simple: 
Draw neighbors together for an afternoon to chill out on the 'village green.' 


So here are a bunch of pictures that give a sense of the day. 

CLICK on a bundle of images to see it
ENLARGED on your screen.


Setting up started early and took a full team effort.

Richard Linster greeted people and renewed Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association memberships. Ken Vogel displayed his incredible puppets, Alicia Hamilton gave luxurious chair massages, the principal of Lapham Elementary hugged past and current students, and an array of items donated generously from local businesses enticed people to give money to benefit the neighborhood parks and school.

 By 1PM it was really hot. The first scheduled event was a cool one: a tour of Well #24 with Tom Heikkinen, General Manager of the Madison Water Utility.


The Doggie Parade, sponsored by Dog Haus University, thrilled both the dogs and the spectators. 


 The Cork and Bottle String band entertained us with their home-grown sound and Underground Food Cart supplied the homemade meal. A game of Red Light, Green Light drew both kids and adults into the field for a few rounds, but not for too long: It was hot in the sun!


Bernies Rock Shop brought out the much loved fossil and gem dig, children aimed tennis balls at the clothes-line of dangling stuffed animals to win whatever they hit, and thanks to extremely dedicated volunteers Teena and Sonali, hot and thirsty people enjoyed Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, root beer floats, Robin Room phosphates and JPH lemonade all afternoon.


Alder Zellers and TLNA President Patty Prime chatted with everyone while Nick served a variety of delicious homemade drinks and kids hid out in the Tenney Nursery & Parent Center cardboard maze (with zero chance an adult-sized-person would be able to follow them through the small tunnels and turns).    


...boxes for building, balls for bopping around, a fire truck to climb in and a performance of familiar hits by Francie and Josh.  


There was more, too, of course. Games and prizes. Delicious donated food by Sophia's, Macha Tea House and Festival Foods. And Rihanna, who brought her salon chair and mirror to spend the entire afternoon streaking party-goes' hair with bright waves of color. The pink streak was a literal highlight of the day for my daughter, who has refused to wash her hair all week. Somehow I missed taking a picture of Rihanna. It is probably because Rihanna was putting a gold streak in my own hair.

THANK YOU to the following contributing area businesses and organizations:

 

Alicia Hamilton Massage, Breeze Stevens, Burnies Rock Shop, Cargo Coffee, Chocolate Shoppe, Christ Presbyterian, Cork N Bottle Liquor Store, Dog Haus, University, Engine #3/ Willy St. Firehouse, EVP Coffee, Festival Foods, Food Fight, Gebhardt Development, Johnson Public House, Juneberry Studio & Marketplace, Ken Vogel, Lapham Outdoor Classroom & Community Garden (Terri Belz), Macha Teahouse, MadCat, Madison Metropolitan Sewer District / Saltwise, Madison Parks Department, Madison Water Utility & Tom Heikkinen, Morningwood Nursery & Greenhouse, Nick Balazs, Pasqual’s, Patrick Heck, Reanna’s Salona, Robin Room, RP’s Pasta, Salatore’s Tomato Pies, Shirley Haidinger (League of Women Voters), ShopBop, Sophia's Bakery, Studio 924, Tenney Nursery & Parent Center, U-Frame It, Underground Food Cart, UpShift, Yoga Co-op.


 Happy Summer!


Ten Reasons You Don’t Want To Miss the Party in the Park on Saturday, June 25th





The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Block Party is soon! For the second year, I’ve been working with a wonderful group of friends to plan the Party in the Park. Like last year, the casual neighborly gathering will be at Reynolds Park from 1-5. 

I have to admit, the Party in the Park last year was a real highlight of my summer. There was music, lemonade, friends and neighbors, and an undeniably good vibe. And this year’s party, on June 25th (my dad’s birthday, coincidentally), is going to be great. 

Here are just ten of the many reasons why:

  
ONE: Cork and Bottle String Band! The band that our neighborhood is
famous for will be partying with us. Thankfully their busy summer schedule obliged this year (they were so bummed they couldn’t play the Party last year) and, while we are not ‘just another summer music festival,’ we are so happy to have Cork and Bottle String Band as our soundtrack. They go on at 2:30 and are followed by Francie and Josh at 4PM.


TWO: A signed & framed print by Aaron Bohrad! He is one of Wisconsin’s most famous artists (read about him here) and the U Frame It shop on East Johnson will be featuring his work this summer. This is one of the many amazing things you could win in the raffle. The businesses in the neighborhood have been unbelievably generous and there are some really excellent prizes to be won. And all the money raised goes to support Lapham Elementary School and neighborhood parks.  

THREE: Dogs on parade! I’m not personally a dog owner, but I am excited to see other people’s dogs dolled up and showing off for their canine buddies. The parade starts at 1:30 PM and the Dog Haus University on East Johnson Street will be giving out bandanas, so even if you don’t have a Super Dog cape or little pumpkin outfit on hand, you can still let your dog join the fun. And the rest of us will be happy bystanders. 

FOUR: Tour Water Well #24. This is back by popular demand. Last year I asked the Madison Water Utility if we could have a peek at whatever is under the tennis and bike polo courts in the water facility building. They were humbly accommodating and truly flattered by the huge turn-out. The water well tour was a hit. So again this year, General Manager Tom Heikkinen will open the doors and lead a tour of Water Well #24 at 1PM. 

FIVE: The biggest game of Red Light/Green Light ever. In case you don’t remember how to play: A whole bunch of people start on one end of the field and try to run to the other end while the light is ‘green.’ If the light turns red while you are still running, you are out! And if running around a field isn’t your thing, there will be plenty of other games. We have some classics, and some innovative adaptations, planned for this party. 

SIX: The puppet man. Ken Vogel has promised to bring out some of his remarkable puppet and marionette collection for us to admire. He makes every single one by hand. The designs are all his own, though you can recognize some famous folks, like Belle La Follette, Hank Aaron and Georgia O’Keefe. And if you have ever been to Ella’s Deli on East Washington, you’ve probably marveled at some of Ken’s work. He is one of our local artists and it’s a treat to have him as part of the Party in the Park again this year. And if you have kids, make sure they ask him for a free pass to ride the carousel at Ella’s. 

SEVEN: Get lost in a maze! The Tenney Nursery and Parent Center folks have been scheming all spring in order to debut the original and wholly unique Marvelous Maze at the Party in June. I have heard whisperings about it, even seen some of these good people scavenging supplies, but I don’t know the secrets. I will be lost in there, too. 

EIGHT: Climb around on Fire Truck Engine #3. What more is there to say. 

NINE: Eat and Drink! Again this year, there will be amazing food and
drink donated by local brew masters, chefs and culinary artists. Again the sips and sweets will be part of our lure to get you to donate generously to support our school and neighborhood. Three will be treats from Macha Tea Company, snacks from Festival Foods, ice cream from the Chocolate Shoppe, root beer from Cork N' Bottle, phosphates from the Robin Room, and more. If you want some more substantial fare, the Underground Food Truck will be on site and you are welcome to BYOB (Cork N' Bottle sells cans, which makes it easier to keep our park glass-free). 

TEN: Hang out with friends and neighbors! This was the best part for me last year. After months of planning (and that was actually a lot of fun, too, because my co-conspirators are such capable and joyful people), at the Party I truly sat back and enjoyed the good company and beautiful scene. But 

Not everyone has gotten the memo, so do invite your friends and neighbors and help us spread the word:

EVERYONE is welcome!

http://betweentwolakesandahardplace.blogspot.com/p/reynolds-park.html
 



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