Conceptual Park & Open Space Proposal

Public Comments and QuestionsThe Conceptual Park and Open Space Proposal is a comprehensive study of Fitchburg’s natural, cultural, and historical resources and a recommendation of areas to be considered for future parks, recreation facilities, and protected open space.  Land would only be acquired from those landowners willing to sell or donate land or land rights. 

The proposal, serving as a tool for guiding responsible urban growth and park and open space planning decisions, was integrated into the planning of McGaw Park Neighborhood and the Northeast Neighborhood.

The Conceptual Park and Open Space Proposal was adopted by the City through the adoption of Fitchburg's Comprehensive Park, Open Space, and Recreation Plan 2010-2015 in January 2010.  Refer to Chapter 7 of the plan.

Project Development

Beginning in 2007, the Conceptual Park and Open Space Proposal was developed as a comprehensive study of Fitchburg’s natural and cultural resources.  Ed Bartell, City Forester/Naturalist, and Dana Dentice, Landscape Architect Intern, have spearheaded the project.  Other City staff has also made significant contributions.  The Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department and the Planning Department have coordinated their efforts as this proposal and the Comprehensive Plan have both undergone drafting at the same time.

Meeting Timeline

A Guide to the Planning Process (May 2008)

Concept & Goals

After reviewing a 2005 park and open space concept, the Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department decided to expand it and draft a new proposal using a more comprehensive and resource-based planning model. 

The goal of the initial concept, proposed by Tom Hovel (City Planner) and Jim Christoph (former Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry), was to design a system of linked parks and open space that protect Fitchburg’s natural areas and create a buffer between current and future development.  The main feature of their conceptual proposal was the creation of a greenbelt buffer (Moraine Edge Park) at the southern boundary of the current urban service area that could showcase Fitchburg’s agricultural history. Hovel and Christoph also wanted to link this greenbelt to environmentally sensitive corridors and other significant natural features through park and open space.

The primary goals of the current Park & Open Space Proposal are to:

  • Identify all areas outside the urban service area that have environmental and cultural significance and should be considered for preservation
  • Make the public aware of these resources and their value
  • Guide responsible urban growth and park/recreation planning decisions

The rich variety of environmental and cultural resources in Fitchburg accounts for a significant amount of land that is worth protecting or using for recreation purposes.  Therefore, areas of higher priority for both acquisition and future development consideration were designated in the plan as follows:

  • Areas most feasible for expansion of the City’s recreational facilities will receive higher priority in terms of land acquisition and park planning efforts.
  • Future urban growth areas, especially those of near term development, will become a priority in terms of further study and documentation of resources and integration of the Park & Open Space Proposal.

The Parks Commission has strongly endorsed the Proposal and its concept and goals and has contributed through their recommendation of three priorities:

  1. The greenbelt, deemed Moraine Edge Park & Preserve, running along the southern urban service area boundaries (While specific plans have not been established, this land has potential for a diverse array of recreational and educational opportunities.)
  2. The west and south expansion of McGaw Park (for additional active recreation facilities)
  3. The Northeast Neighborhood (furthest along in the development planning process)


As stated previously, the Conceptual Park & Open Space Proposal was drafted using a resource-based model.  In other words, all available data for environmental, historical, and cultural resources were collected and mapped to determine areas most sensitive to development. This includes the following resources:

Environmental Resources

  • Forest resources
  • Steep slopes & moraines
  • Wetlands
  • Water resources
  • Hydric soils
  • Public land
  • Dane County environmental corridors
  • Groundwater recharge
  • Prime farmland
  • Endangered/rare species and significant natural features and plant communities

Cultural / Historical Resources

  • Indian trails, camps, mounds
  • Historic buildings/sites
  • Historic mines/quarries
  • Territorial roads and lead trails
  • Scenic resources
  • Railroad corridors

Importance of Resources 

The boundaries of the proposed park and open space were drafted by the Parks Department by overlaying mapped data for the above resources and applying the following criteria:

Exclusion of

  • Urban service area
  • Most private structures

Inclusion of

  • Hovel and Christoph’s greenbelt (formerly Moraine Edge Park)
  • Most water features, wetlands, and their 300-ft buffers
  • Most woodlands
  • County, State, and Federal public lands
  • All Dane County environmental corridors
  • Areas with multiple resources
  • Areas with a single resource that link and/or lie adjacent to areas that meet the above criteria
  • Non-resource areas (to provide wildlife, plant, and recreational corridors)

Resource Overlay

Land Conservation Mechanisms

There are numerous mechanisms and financial resources for acquiring parkland and preserving open space.  Public lands could be acquired through park dedication, donations, and purchase of title from willing landowners.  Potential mechanisms for protecting private open space include conservation easements, the purchase/transfer of development rights, and government regulation (comprehensive plan policy and State law).  In addition to City funds and park dedication fees, there are State and County grants available to fund this type of project. 

Fitchburg has the potential to be a permanently green and sustainable community -- a model for other communities. We can achieve this by being proactive in protecting existing resources that our community values, therefore, enhancing the quality of life for generations to come.


Citizen Comments

(Public Hearing- March 6, 2008 )

"This proposal surely will burnish Fitchburg's reputation as a green city. So long as it respects the rights of the landowner, I heartily endorse the concept.  Its execution seems to be thoughtful and comprehensive."

“Great to plan that far out.  Please spell out [how] plan will address ways to relieve user conflicts (i.e. identify existing hunting/trapping areas on State/Federal land and lands that may be closed to certain activities.)"

“Fitchburg is poised to be productive in making this an incredible community to live in by preserving green space- natural resources, attending to water regeneration, rather than letting develop run amok.  It will make our community very desirable and sustainable.”

“I really support looking forward to preserving greenspace/resources!”

“I would support increasing the percentage of park dedication developers are currently mandated to set aside.  I feel developers should bear a larger burden than they currently carry to help preserve land/other resources in Fitchburg.  I would support a change in ordinances to support implementation of this plan.”

“This plan is laudable!  Longtime coming and in the nick of time. There are magnificent viewscapes in this area and treasures tucked all over.”

“I would also support adding the area north of McGaw Park toward Lacy Road into park land.  Preserve the stand of oaks and entry to park.”

“I also support purchasing development rights- but they are permanently purchased- not for a limited time.”

“I would appreciate that in the areas that are slated for future development, a survey of historic trees in those areas be done and an effort be made to preserve them and incorporate them as an important feature in the development plan.”

“Overlap plans with existing State/Fed/County properties and partner with County/State in those areas of Dane Co. Parks & Open Space Plan to maximize partnerships.”

“Preserve what is precious about this ‘beyond the urban service area.’”

“Irish Lane is truly a lane filled with Fitchburg’s Irish settlers- it should stay a ‘green’ lane.”

“Get some lookout towers on our city high points and moraines.”

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