Written by Jamie Polley
The Marathon County Park System will celebrate its 100-year anniversary in 2020!
With 100 years under our belts, you’d think that all the planning for the park system would be complete, right? Well, not quite…
Marathon County has built a high-quality park system over the last 100 years, consisting of 3,800 acres of park and 30,474 acres of forest. However, the parks and infrastructure are aging, users’ needs are changing, new trends are emerging, the land needs management, and new lands have been acquired. All of these factors contribute to the need to update our plans to ensure that the parks are meeting the current and future needs of the residents of Marathon County.
In early 2019, the County hired MSA Professional Services, Inc. (MSA) to assist us in updating our Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP), which will help guide the maintenance, planning, and development of the park system for the next 5 years (2020–2024).
The latest draft of the CORP:
- Analyzes parkland and recreational needs and demands
- Provides general policy direction regarding facility planning and maintenance
- Recommends the improvement of existing facilities
- Recommends new facilities
- Discusses implementation strategies to move the plan forward
The CORP is a working tool that serves as a supporting document to the County’s larger 2016 Comprehensive Plan and 2018–2022 Strategic Plan while also aligning Marathon County with state and regional initiatives to promote outdoor recreation.
Updating the CORP began in March 2019 with a project kickoff meeting with the Marathon County Park Commission. An online community survey was conducted and completed by 1,194 individuals to help us establish priorities. (NOTE: Of the survey participants, 88% live in Marathon County while 12% vacation in Marathon County.)
A “Plan to Play” public engagement meeting to discuss the survey results was conducted at the Marathon County Public Library in April 2019. In addition, the Park Commission conducted a tour of the County Parks, explaining the forests’ history, present-day problems, and future forest plans.
A draft plan was developed in meetings with staff and the Park Commission, reviewing the 2019–2023 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), as well as recreation plans of Marathon County towns, villages, and municipalities. Updating the CORP will be a 12-month process to ensure that we create a comprehensive, usable plan that will take the park system into the future.
In updating the plan, it became apparent that many of the County Parks and the facilities within the parks need updating and maintenance, as you would imagine with a 100-year-old system.
In addition, new parks have been added and the Parks, Recreation, & Forestry (PRF) Department’s roll has evolved from being only facility managers to being facility managers, event coordinators, athletic venue managers, park programmers, and so much more.
Over the next 5 years, the County will focus on our existing facilities and bringing them into the 21st century. This will begin with the County’s commitment to update park playgrounds.
As we look beyond 5 years, parks will be planned and managed for their importance of providing outdoor recreation and will be evaluated on how they contribute to the economic prosperity of the County. A priority will be to connect people with the parks.
2019 could not have been a better year to update our CORP. The State updated their SCORP, and Governor Evers is establishing a new Office of Outdoor Recreation. Locally, the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce presented their Greater Wausau Region Economic Development Strategic Plan, which identifies outdoor recreation in Marathon County to be a key component to attracting talent and economic development.
According to a study completed by the National Recreation & Parks Association, parks and recreation contributes to economic development through business attraction or “curb appeal,” business retention and expansion, and talent attraction. In addition, if a park system is designed with connections to regional destinations, it can serve to bring in additional visitors.
To see a draft of the 2020–2024 County CORP, visit the Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department’s website.
The County Board will consider the latest draft of the CORP at their December meeting, so it’s not too late for your voice to be heard. Feel free to contact your County Board Supervisor to weigh in on the proposed plan.
Director | Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department
Jamie Polley is the Director of Parks, Recreation, & Forestry for the City of Wausau and Marathon County. She is a native of Marathon County and after living in Minnesota for 11 years, she made her way back home in 2018. Jamie is excited to lead this unique City/County department forward and tell the story of what the Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department is and does so that all citizens know of the opportunities available to them. Jamie has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science and a master’s degree in Sports Management. Outside of work, Jamie is an avid runner and loves to spend time with her family enjoying the outdoors. Email Jamie Polley.
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