Big plans for southport park kenosha news

By Daniel Gaitan for the Kenosha News 5/19/22, 3:21 PM

There are big plans in store for Southport Park.

The Southport Beach Park Association, working with the City of Kenosha, recently received an $87,000 grant through the Fund for Lake Michigan to make the area a bustling park again.

The funds will be used to develop detailed engineering specifications for the stormwater drainage system at the historic Southport Beach House, and for the design of a detailed landscape plan to mitigate watershed pollution along the coast of the park, 7501 Second Ave.

The plans are Phase 1 of a Southport Park Watershed Rejuvenation Project. Such improvements aim to help address pollution runoff associated with stormwater, erosion, habitat restoration and park accessibility.

Landscape plans for the future of the park include a prairie garden, improved walking and cycling pathways, upgraded signage, and expansion of disability accessibility, among other projects. The city is responsible for contract administration management for the design and engineering phase.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Lydia Spottswood, a member of the nonprofit association and Kenosha’s City Plan Commission. “We see this as a steppingstone towards pursuing implementation grants in a range of ways. … this grant is a crucial starting point.”

She said such detailed plans are required to obtain funds from private foundations and federal grants.  “They want to see “shovel ready” projects, so you need a high level of detail in your applications.”

Historic local beach house

The Southport Beach House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was facing “the wrecking ball” just a decade ago after it fell into disrepair, Spottswood said.  “In the past, the city was not doing a very good job with preservation. We just don’t have that many historic buildings left in our community, and this happens to be a national trust building.”

Southport Park Association hopes the building will eventually become something like Milwaukee’s popular Collectivo on the Lakefront coffee shop, which is in an old water utility building.  “That would be terrific.” she said. “That’s the vision we have for this treasured community resource. The Association envisions the building as a multi-purpose destination with areas for relaxation, parties, and community events.”

“When I served on the City Council in the 1990’s, there was a vibrant movement toward private-public partnerships.  Southport Park Association wants to nurture more opportunities for this kind of community engagement.  When you have an environment that encourages trust and an attitude of optimism and hope for community improvements — it’s a wonderful way to grow and do positive things together,” Spottswood said.

“For a very long time the only way to get into the beach house was to rent it.  Southport Park Association would like to see the city open the beach house back up to the public. The key to that is building security via ongoing on-site operations and activities.” she said.

Hopes for prairie garden

“We also want to maintain a really strong connection between the building and the park,” Spottswood said. “A prairie garden is a big idea. This kind of landscape design is starting to take off everywhere.  We intend to create a ‘green wall’ between the park and the industrial use to the south and southwest which is the waste treatment plant.  A visual ‘green wall’ will beautify this unique lakefront park, bringing it back to life.”  She said prairie gardens are self-regenerating and require less maintenance from city employees.

Other “elements” in the plan include a new children’s playground and educational panels.  “It’s going to take time and there will be a process of transition, this grant from the Fund for Lake Michigan Provides us a great opportunity