JEFFERSON — Plans are under way for redeveloping a portion of the former Jefferson County Highway Department shop as a county/city park.
Officials from the City of Jefferson and Jefferson County are working to create concept plans for a 5- to 7-acre public park. The rest of the 18.34-acre site would be utilized for future private development.
“The idea is that there would be a signed intergovernmental agreement between the county and the city for the development and operation/maintenance of that (park),” Jefferson County Parks Department director Joe Nehmer said. “It would be a joint effort between the city and county, working together to design it, develop it and maintain it.”
Located at 141 W. Woolcock St. in Jefferson, the former highway shop property is within the city limits, but owned by the county.
“If you go out there now, all the buildings are down, but essentially the whole footprint is under concrete,” Nehmer said of the site.
In mid-2015, Jefferson County Highway Department operations officially transferred over to the new shop, located at 1425 Wisconsin Dr. in Jefferson.
Since then, the buildings and other structures at the Woolcock Street location have been sold off or removed in other ways.
On Monday, the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Parks Committee was presented with a draft concept map of the site redevelopment produced by Vandewalle & Associates Inc., Madison, which is the longtime planning consultant of the City of Jefferson and also has served other municipalities across the county.
According to the draft concept map, the county/city park could have approximately 900 feet of river frontage with the Rock River, a boat launch, kayaking and canoeing, a playground, docking, a pavilion, a riverwalk trailhead, a fishing pier and public parking. Also, there potentially could be a restaurant, marina, ship store or the like, which could be leased to a private entity.
There would be “a lot” of trail connectivity at the proposed park, Nehmer said, pointing to the Rock River National Water Trail, Jefferson County’s Glacial River Trail and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Glacial Drumlin Trail.
“The thought is, you do (the park) first and it’ll help with (the future private) redevelopment,” Nehmer said. “That could be townhomes, condos, apartments. Likely, it’ll be all three of them. It isn’t single-family residential.”
During its meeting, the Parks Committee approved amending the Jefferson County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan to include a potential county/city public park. No specific site plans or the private development were included in the amendment.
The amendment was made in anticipation of the county and city applying for a Wisconsin DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant in the future.
“In order to be eligible, the component you’re applying for needs to be in your current park, recreation and open space plan,” Nehmer explained.
“In the current draft intergovernmental agreement, it has the county taking the lead on the grant writing, but supported by the city,” he added. “When you write these stewardship grants, if you have multiple partners on board at the time of submission, you get an extra point.”
Nehmer said officials don’t know how much money they would request from the grant yet, but that the City of Jefferson might be receiving some draft numbers from Vandewalle & Associates this week.
Final approval of plans will have to go before both the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors and the Jefferson Common Council.
With the Parks Committee’s amendment, a resolution allowing the application for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant is expected to come before the committee in April and potentially be forwarded to the full county board for that month’s meeting.
The Jefferson Common Council is expected to have a presentation and discussion regarding the agenda item, “Phase I of Former County Highway Property Redevelopment,” during its meeting tonight, Tuesday, March 6.
The common council meeting is held at Jefferson City Hall, 317 S. Main St. in Jefferson, in the council chambers, beginning at 7 p.m.