Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Creating Diversity in Dane County Parks Connects People to Land

June 03, 2014
Darren Marsh Parks Director (608) 224-3766
Land & Water Resources

A Column By Debra Seubert, Parks Volunteer

The Dane County Park System has undergone many changes over the past decade. It’s experienced a lot of growth and is home to 12,000 acres and over 25 county parks. There’s a change of attitude about how the park’s resources are being utilized and the idea is taking on a life of it’s own.


“A lot of people think of a park system as solely recreation driven and we’re trying to  engage people more to think more of the resources and get more of a basic connection to land than just thinking of it as a place to cross country ski or hike”, said Chris James, Dane County  Park Planner.


As the landscape changes in terms of the diversity Dane County Parks provides, one element that is key in maintaining the land is building and maintaining partnerships. Some new partnerships with local schools and organizations are helping connect more youth to county parkland, while growing produce the community can benefit from.


One of those partnerships is between the county parks and the Edgerton School District. Together, they are coordinating a youth gardening program at the newly developed Silverwood County Park. Students learn about gardening and are given an opportunity to hone their skills. The program is in it’s second year and in the future they hope to supplement the school meal program and also provide produce to the community, according to Laura Guyer, Real Estate Division Manager for Dane County Parks.


Operation Fresh Start is also providing a gardening program at Silverwood County Park that provides youth an opportunity to connect with the land.


For more information on this program, please visit the Friends of Silverwood County Park website. 



And at the new community gardens at Badger Prairie Park, the Community Action Coalition oversees gardening activities that take place there, with the help of other volunteers, to  provide guidance to those that are new to gardening.  Please visit the Badger Prairie Community Garden website for more information.


“Dane County has a national reputation for our local foods economy,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.  “Opening up more opportunities to connect people to the land helps them understand where their food comes from, build respect for our agriculture economy, and increases access to fresh, healthy, produce.”


In addition to gardens, almost every County Park in Dane County provides opportunities for “foraging”. “This is an idea we’re trying to promote. The idea is that you could go out to a County Park and look for blackberries and hunt for mushrooms, different wild nuts so any edible plants that are on the landscape, people can go out with their kids as a family, kind of as an activity and pick the raspberries or look for the mushrooms whatever their interested in”, said Laura Guyer.


“It ties into the overall goal of the Parks and Open Space Plan that is connecting people to the land and resources of Dane County”, added Chris James.


Dane County Parks offer a lot of diversity in terms of activities that they provide as people use the land and water resources they are gaining a greater understanding of agriculture and new opportunities that they can experience. The Park System offers everything from hunting, fishing , camping, foraging to gardening, disc golf, geocaching and everything in between. So in one park you may be tapping a maple tree for maple syrup, while in another park learning how to cook on a wood stove and at another park learning how to fish, the skies the limit.


“So it’s not trying to do the same thing at every park it’s having niche experiences throughout the Park system so whatever you want to do you can hopefully find it somewhere”, said Laura Guyer.


The vision of the Dane County Park System is to connect people and children to the land and utilize the resources the land has to offer and value the experiences you share in the park and know that these activities can happen in practically your own backyard.


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