You can stand in the middle of Quarry Park on Madison’s near west side and believe you’re in the isolated hills of Southwest Wisconsin, not a couple blocks away from busy University Avenue.
The small park sits on a hill above the surrounding neighborhoods and its heavily wooded and jagged terrain make it seem like a world away from all the activity below.
It’s the perfect place to ride a mountain bike. Or walk a dog.
And that’s what brought me there on a chilly December day last week. I was contacted by Dan Dacko, the trail steward at Quarry Park for Capital Off Road Pathfinders (CORP). Dan wanted to get out ahead of some management and user issues at the park. So, I arranged a meeting out there with Eric Knepp, Madison’s Parks Superintendent.
As we walked the trails Dan explained how the naturally hilly terrain has been augmented by mountain bikers to make it even more challenging. Eric was okay with that as long as the alterations were done properly and within guidelines that didn’t present any undue risks. He acknowledged that there is some inherent risk in any active sport. Even in the gentle game of golf a golfer was killed by lightening at the city’s Odana course a few years back. The video below shows how the man made features are used.
The biggest issue at the park right now seems to be some user conflicts between neighborhood residents who love to walk their dogs (often off leash) in the park and mountain bikers.
Dan and Eric discussed the possibility of some simple signage that would alert human walkers or riders to trail crossings. Nobody had a solution to the problem of illiterate dogs except the obvious one of keeping them on their leashes as is already required under city ordinance.
Quarry Park is the only city of Madison park in which mountain biking is allowed, though there are good options for mountain bikers in county parks and other facilities in the area.
What problems there are at Quarry Park are pretty minor in the big scheme of things. But Dan Dacko was reaching out to the city to try to head off any future issues and to open a stronger ongoing dialogue. Eric was receptive, open-minded and solution-oriented. They agreed to meet again early next year in a nice, warm office.
As mountain biking and trail riding increase managing shared space with different users is becoming more of a challenge. Sometimes, when users come at the problem with the wrong approach or late in the game, these knotty issues can be hard to solve. Quarry Park is a case where a smart advocate and an excellent public manager are coming together to anticipate issues and address them before they accelerate.