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Ball fields, bike trail signs on list for plan
Paisley Cox, 2, plays at the Swiss Alps Cheeseland at Recreation Park early this week. "I don't fall," Cox said. "I got this." Improving access and awareness of recreational opportunities in Monroe, including city parks, is among goals being presented as work on an updated comprehensive community plan continues. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - More baseball and softball fields may be one way to help the city of Monroe increase recreational opportunities for its residents.

Adding more ball fields was one potential action item drafted Thursday at a meeting for input on an updated community plan for Monroe. The meeting was the second of two meetings aimed at identifying issues and potential solutions under the realm of city parks, recreation and natural resources.

The Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is hosting the meetings to gather input from across the community. The agency will compile the results into an updated city plan. Other topics in the plan will include housing; arts and culture; transportation; and economic development.

Based on input from the first meeting July 15, the group focused on a draft of a vision statement: "To live in an open-minded Monroe where parks and recreation opportunities are diverse, inclusive and affordable, while providing amenities that reflect current trends and are open to surrounding communities."

Increasing access to recreational opportunities for all ages is one goal to reach, meeting participants agreed. And adding additional ball fields was named as a key component.

Ball players must travel out of town for field time because diamonds in Monroe are in use, said Marge Klinzing, the city's recreation director. "We've got baseball teams playing in Browntown because there's not enough baseball and softball fields for them here."

Most coaches work during the day, so there's a high demand for field time for practices and games during May, June and July evenings. As a result, teams are limited to one practice per week so there's field time for others.

Another avenue to achieving the overall vision is increasing connectivity for bike trails, which may mean improving signs directing bicyclists from trails to downtown and back again. It could also mean adding bike lanes to help bicyclists navigate the city better.

Making things more clear for visitors could help maximize what the city already has in place.

"Leveraging what we've got is a powerful tool," said Colin Simpson, Monroe's director of public works. For example, more signs or painting stripes in parking lots could make trails easier to find.

Other ideas for bike trails included paving portions - for wheelchair accessibility and also to make them more enjoyable for strollers and bicycles - or increasing safety by adding bridges at major intersections.

In order to find out what Monroe needs in its parks system, the city may look at conducting a needs assessment of its properties and recreational outlets to look at issues such as parking.

Promoting health and wellness in the city was another key area, participants said.

"We hear over and over we're struggling with mental health issues - can we take what we have and push it a step further?" asked Victoria Solomon, community resource development educator for the Green County University of Wisconsin Extension.

Some possibilities offered were public garden areas that are conducive to meditation and outdoor teaching areas or classrooms.

An overlying theme throughout the discussion, as well as other input sessions, is increasing awareness and providing information about all that Monroe offers.

Klinzing, for example, said her office knows it must remind people how to sign up for programs and even where the recreation department is located.

One idea to achieve better awareness is a community-wide activity, such as a scavenger hunt, to get people to different spots throughout the city. Another possibility is providing information about parks and recreation in Monroe to new residents or new employees at local businesses.