To see the condition of the grounds surrounding the benches at B.B. Clarke Beach is enough to make anyone hopping mad. (I have pictures below.) After a determined and costly effort to replace the old benches at the beach, continued work by energized volunteers from the neighborhood to keep things spruced up, there is now a depressing feeling that the City Of Madison no longer cares. And it comes at the worst of times.
I received the following note from the relatives of Bascom Clarke, the man whom the beach was named, alerting me to their visit and family reunion at the beach.
I am the great-grandaughter living in France and am the eldest of Bascom’s great grandchildren. Actually, my husband and I are planning to visit the BB Clarke home in Madison on Spaight St this coming August 2010 with our first cousins from St Paul, MN, and hoping Bascom’s other 9 great-grandchildren will be able to make it to the BB Clarke Beach for a family picnic.
If the Clarke family had been at the beach on Monday they would have been greeted with numerous thistles 36″ tall, weeds, and grass growing like no one in the city knows how to trim or mow in conventional ways. I am not sure about anyone else, but that embarrasses me. I want this city to shine in all that we do. The 9-year-old boy on a bike at the beach was none too amused either when he asked what I was taking pictures of. When told of the thistles he remarked that he often rides in the park and sure would not want to fall off his bike into the thorns. I would hope the City of Madison feels the same.
Over the better part of two years various committees and members of the Marquette Neighborhood, along with the City of Madison, considered how to best replace the aging benches at B.B. Clarke Beach. In the end it was decided that artist Erika Koivunen would create new benches for the quiet beach located on the Isthmus. Using recycled metal, and wood salvaged from the grand oak trees at Orton Park, Koivunen created truly impressive designs that were installed in 2009. The benches have pleased the neighborhood and those who curl up for a read under the trees.
Five benches were placed at the park, each costing $3,575. Three of the five benches were paid for and donated to the city by families in the memory of a loved one. In total the city will make $17,900 from this effort by the neighborhood.
Volunteers have planted flowers along the retaining wall for some of the benches with the aim to have all showcased with blooms. Weeks ago volunteers saw the start of numerous thistles growing near the benches. When the city was alerted about the thistles the volunteers were told that very strict rules allowed for only a certified applicator taking care of the thistles. At that time the thistles that have prickles on the stem and also on the flat part of the leaves were only a few inches tall. Today they can be measured with a yard stick! Clearly the volunteers could have done circles blind-folded around the city plan to remove the thistles.
In addition to the thistles is the fact that city employees have so much fun riding the huge mowers while at the beach, but are unable to complete the job with a conventional lawn mower. One has to wonder why? As a result there is a trashy look to some parts of the park. That look can breed an attitude among some beach-goers that if a place looks messy ‘we can leave our trash here too’. And they do!
I understand the city has budgetary limits as to what it can do, but that refrain gets old real fast in light of how Mayor Dave Cieslewicz was willing to do whatever it took to insure the Edgewater plan succeeded. The true test of leadership might not be in what new things are acquired, but how one maintains the things already owned.
I sure as heck hope that when the Clarke family arrives for their reunion at the beach the City of Madison will have made an effort to have everything looking presentable.