Madison Parks proposes lighting system for Burr Jones Park on Isthmus

January 27, 2019

The Madison Parks Division hopes to bring lighting to an East Side park that is popular with Ultimate Frisbee players to allow for night games, according to a new proposal.

Other improvements to Burr Jones Park, 1820 E. Washington Ave., would include a new parking lot, a water retention system, landscaping and a new basketball court, according to documents filed with the city’s Urban Design Commission. The commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal Wednesday.

The 4.7-acre park — which is bounded by two railroads on the north and east, East Washington Avenue to the south and the Yahara River to the east — would have two fields for Ultimate Frisbee games as well as an overlay to have one full-size soccer field. The lighting system would shine on those fields to allow for play until the park closes at 10 p.m. throughout the year.

Parks Division staff could not be reached Saturday for a cost estimate on the proposal.

The Madison Ultimate Frisbee Association uses several parks around the city to hold Ultimate Frisbee leagues, and Burr Jones Park is one of its preferred venues because of its central location, president Pete Schramm said. The association had suggested adding lights to some fields so it can host more leagues. Currently, MUFA has to turn some people away from fall leagues because there aren’t enough open playing fields available when the sun is out, Schramm said.

The lighting system “will give us a better venue to offer leagues in the non-summer months when sunlight is an issue as well as a central venue to put on showcase events or clinics that isn’t as formal as Breese Stevens (Field) or the Warner Football Stadium,” Schramm said.

Schramm said Madison has several lighted softball and baseball fields but few fields to be used for other sports at night.

The lighting system would have a sharp cut off and low glare that could prevent light from reaching into nearby neighborhoods and would use LED bulbs, according to the proposal.

Ald. Larry Palm, 12th District, who represents the area, said he hasn’t formed an opinion on the improvements yet but that he does have some concerns about modifying the park without completing a study and plan for the Yahara River. He also noted that Burr Jones Park is a community gathering place, but the lights would likely serve only sports leagues.

“We do have lighting for the basketball courts at Warner Park and have not heard complaints about it spilling over so I don’t object much to that component necessarily,” Palm said. “But it will make park activities less recreational, and along the river I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

Another major change for the park would be a stormwater management system.

Burr Jones Park is in a flood-prone area, which was highlighted in the weeks-long flooding of the Yahara River and its lakes that affected the Isthmus after unprecedented rainstorms last summer. Madison Parks worked with city engineering staff to assess the stormwater management needs at the park.

According to the Parks Division, the bioretention area would exceed redevelopment standards and would be planted with native prairie plants that help absorb water.

Parking at Burr Jones Park would also be modified under the proposal.

Its parking lot currently encroaches on the state Department of Transportation’s railroad right of way by about 30 feet, according to the Parks Division. A new parking lot would be placed off that land, would include landscaped islands and have 33 stalls — down from the current 35 stalls.

Because of the proposed parking reconfiguration, the Parks Division would also remove one of the park’s two basketball courts. Both of the current courts are in poor condition, and the Parks Division would reconstruct the remaining basketball court to address the cracking and tiling problems, if the proposal is approved.

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