NEW BERLIN - As early as next week, the common council may consider a proposal to provide tranquil parks as a bit of nature in the heavily urbanized section here - the City Center.

The New Berlin Parks, Buildings and Grounds Commission recommended that the council request a grant to create the New Berlin City Center Community Gathering Area and Wetland Ecology Trail. City forester Paul Fliss put the idea forward. He said he has enough volunteer and financial support so that the plan would cost the city nothing, if a grant can be obtained from the National Wildlife Federation.

“The City Center development has two of the three things New Berlin claims it wants to be, a great place to live, work and play,” Fliss said. The center has plenty of places to live and places to shop. This proposal offers a place to play, he said.

The trail would follow Deer Creek that flows through the eastern side of the City Center, located roughly on both sides of National Avenue between Coffee and Moorland roads. The trail would go north past Culver’s Restaurant, crossing National Avenue and skirt Acredale Road in a northern arc to end at the southern foot of the Deer Creek Sanctuary.

Going south

Going south from the City Center, the trail would trace the western border of the Sanctuary at Deer Creek Golf Course.  Coming to a pond, the trail would swing westward along the northern edge of the pond and connect with an existing trail that goes all the way to Eisenhower Middle/High School, There ecology students have created an ecology trail.

Instead of the creek being choked with weeds and invasive species, Deer Creek would be dressed in prairie plants, Fliss said. Viewing areas could be established along the creek banks, he said.

One of the two proposed parks would be a small one right next to the New Berlin Public Library. Currently, it’s an outlot. However, the vision is for it to be an environmental awareness area and a somewhat active park, Fliss said. Some ideas that have been floated are locating a skating rink there and changing movies in the park from Malone Park to the City Center, where 3,000 people live nearby.

Larger park

A larger park, suggested to be dubbed Scout Park, is proposed a little way north of the library and on the other side of Deer Creek.

On that 3.1 acres on the east side of the creek, Scouts would be welcome to do Eagle and Gold Award projects such as making park benches and helping build trail sections with informational signs to tell strollers what they are looking at, Fliss said.

Long-range, it would be nice to have a park shelter and a small playground, with a bridge across the creek so that the many families living on the west side of Deer Creek could enjoy the park, also, Fliss said.

He estimates that about 1,000 people live in the City Center on the west side of the creek and another 2,000 live in subdivisions within a five-minute walk of the creek.

Total cost

Total cost of the trail and establishing the parks is estimated at $62,472. The parks committee recommended the common council approve requesting the National Wildlife Federation for a grant covering half that. The city's half would include labor costs that volunteers would do for free and in-house work, Fliss said.

“I’m hoping to have 100 percent in-kind services by volunteer labor and in-house work, so there would be no direct outlay of money for the city,” he said.

If the city tries for a grant, it won’t know if it gets it until July 17. If the project gets the go-ahead, volunteers could start clearing the creek banks this fall. Trail construction could start as early as next spring. All work would have to be done by July 2019, the grant’s two-year deadline, Fliss said.

Critical to the project, however, is a wetland study to make sure the project is properly designed, he said.

Ready to help

Supporters estimate that about 100 volunteers will be needed. They would get rid of invasive species, build the trail, create vista view wildlife areas, install a boardwalk and hazard railings. Already, Fliss said he has commitments for all 100 from Fed-Ex New Berlin Smart Post, the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, the Prospect Lion's Club of New Berlin, Boy Scout Troops 38 and 68, Girl Scout Troops 4730 and 9248, the New Berlin Land Conservation and Ecology Association, the New Berlin Garden Club and the New Berlin Eisenhower Ecology Club.

Other organizations that are potential supporters include City of New Berlin Natural Landscapes Inc., Boy Scouts of America, Potowatomi Council Girl Scouts of America, GWISE (Girls Wisconsin Southeast), Kroger Foods, the New Berlin Public Library, Friends of the New Berlin Library, and the City Center Business District Association, he said in his proposal.

“When the proposal gets under way, there will be more help as the word of this project becomes more publicized,” Fliss wrote in his project proposal. “I would anticipate several additional partnerships for volunteers as we move forward.”

Many would enjoy

Supporters say many would enjoy the trail and parks. For example, if the trail were already built, they expect that at least 2 percent of the people coming to the library for its 11 nature-based adult programs scheduled January to May and special events to also visit the trail and proposed Library Green park. That would add up to about 300 people per month, he says in the project proposal.

In addition, between the City Center’s 1,000 or so residents and the 2,000 people who live within a five-minute walk, 450 visitors can be expected in an average month, he wrote, based on average park usage for New Berlin residents.

Special events and activities as proposed for the area when the project is complete would include Recreation Department programming, Concerts at City Center, Movies in the Park, in addition to transient visits from the farmers market/retail businesses, picnicking and guided wetland ecology/bird walk tours. Based on historical usage in other areas of the city, these events could be expected to draw an additional 920 people to the Library Green monthly during summer, he wrote. About 15 percent of them might visit the educational portion of the route, totaling about 140 additional visits, he wrote.

The project would connect two areas where conservation activities are in progress. At the north end is the Deer Creek Sanctuary located east of Moorland Road. It is about 47 acres of upland mature oak and maple climax growth forest where several conservation projects have been conducted, he said.

At the south end, the walkway would meet the northern end of an existing route that goes all the way to an ecological area preserved by the ecology club at Eisenhower. When the proposed walkway ends, an asphalt trail continues south, meeting an existing route through the Regal subdivision that leads to the ecological trail through Eisenhower grounds.

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