New Park

Damon L. Welch

Changes to four city ordinances received support from the Madison Parks Board on Tuesday including one that will rename Jaycee Park on the riverfront after former Madison Mayor Damon Welch, who died unexpectedly in office in September of 2019.

“Renaming Jaycee Park is a befitting tribute to the contributions that Mayor Welch made to the east end of downtown Madison that brought us the restored Cotton Mill hotel and the new bridge approach,” said Madison Mayor Bob Courtney. “Like several mayors before him, the naming of a park allows for his family and the community to reflect on Mayor Welch’s contributions. We will also name the shelter house after the Jaycee Club for their long-term contributions to the youth of our community.“

Once the park name change is official, Courtney said a sign calling the area “Damon L. Welch Park” will be installed at the site. Additionally, Courtney said there will be a plaque on the shelter house that will note the contributions of the Madison Jaycee Club to the community.

Another proposed ordinance change is one stating that park board members would serve without compensation. Board members are currently paid $300 each per year, so if they are to continue to be compensated the ordinance will need to be updated.

In addition, now that a three-way liquor license has been approved for Sunrise Golf Course, it was decided to update an ordinance prohibiting liquor sales at the course. The change will allow alcohol at Sunrise Golf Course ± or any other city park — if approved by the city for festivals.

Another change approved will allow fees at the city’s campgrounds to be updated.

Although the Parks Board recommended all four changes, Madison City Council must still take formal action to amend the ordinances before they become official.

In other business:

• A discussion on cart rentals was held during a report by Sunrise Golf Course pro Jeff Bridgford. “We felt it was important to start the conversation of how cart rental fees are structured,” said Courtney. “We believe we can actually maximize course revenue by taking a different approach. We will present our economic analysis at the next meeting in June.”

• Parks Director Matt Woolard provided a presentation on new GPS devices that will be installed on the 32 golf carts at Sunrise Golf Course. “This will incentivize daily play,” said Woolard, along with providing another benefit for those renting carts. Woolard said the city has signed a four-year contract at $5,000 per year for the service with an additional cost of $1,200 in the first year for installation of the devices.

• City Planner Nicole Schell updated the board on surveys received concerning the city’s efforts to update its five-year master plan for the city parks. She said 63 responses have been received and the hope is that at least 100 will be received “to show a good variety of responses for the community.” She said she was pleased that 52.4% of the respondents say they use the city’s parks or trail system at least weekly. She said 74.6% said they would like Madison to spend more money on its parks.

• In an effort to better coincide the parks board meeting with the fact that claims are received earlier in the month, the board decided to shift its meetings to the first Wednesday of the month — rather than the last — with the next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on June 2. A special meeting will be held on Monday, May 3, with an executive session at 5:30 p.m. followed by a public meeting.

• Reported that Haley Courtney has been hired as summer manager for Crystal Beach pool, which opens Memorial Day weekend. “We’re very excited to have her on our team,” Woolard said.

• Streets Superintendent Tony Sorrells will be handling day-to-day management of the parks maintenance staff. “We kept arriving at the conclusion we needed some more management structure in place,” said Woolard, and Sorrells was willing taking on that task. Woolard said the arrangement provides for having a larger maintenance staff that could be beneficial to both departments. “They are still parks employees, but Tony is overseeing them daily, assigns the tasks and follows up throughout the day.”

• Woolard said a position has been posted for parks program coordinator. He said the city is “looking for an energetic person who will handle the programming with a sense of urgency, organization and creativity. I am confident that we will be able to find a quality candidate soon so that we can begin to plan and implement our vision for the way the parks department will run its leagues and tournaments.”

• Mayor Courtney praised the work of the parks department. “As it relates to the direction of the parks as a whole, I couldn’t be more pleased,” he said. “The parks board is doing a great job and working well with the administration and support our efforts to upgrade parks, improve facilities management, obtain grant funding, and adopt new technology, all of which means the future is brighter than ever for the City of Madison Parks System.”