Ripon’s Main Street, Inc. has begun preparations for a $200,000 project to construct a pergola and outdoor seating area at the Village Green to make it more accessible.
Plans are being developed to acquire amenities such as tables and umbrellas, park benches, flower planters and festive lighting that will enhance the experience for those attending events.
The focal point of the project will be the addition of a 20-foot-by-60-foot pergola in the center of the green, which would be surrounded by a large ADA accessible concrete gathering space.
The project, which also will include landscaping improvements and electrical upgrades, will establish a more accessible and user-friendly space.
Main Street Executive Director Craig Tebon said the new project will use a small area of the Village Green lot for a concrete slab to allow for additional seating. The nonprofit purchased and razed an adjacent house to the west in 2021.
Tebon noted there have been occasions where those with mobility challenges were getting stuck in the Village Green’s soft surface.
“The only way they could attend was having to stay on the sidewalk at the perimeter,” he said. “We don’t want that to happen in the future, so we’re trying to create an area that’s in the center of the space that’s accessible without someone with mobility issues having to worry about getting stuck.”
The new project will use a small part of the lot where the house used to be, Tebon said. The pergola is just an “open-type structure which will be positioned in front of where the beverage tent was previously located.”
The original Village Green took up approximately a quarter of the block it sits on, he added. The land expansion essentially doubled its size.
“The expansion part has always been a wish. We had been networking with the family that owned the house for the past 20-plus years,” Tebon said. “Once we got the space, then we just started talking about what we can do now to make it more inclusive.”
The project included financing the purchase and demolishing the residential property, which essentially doubled the size of the Village Green.
Development of the park escalated in 1994, when the Lyke family funded the construction of a bandstand for community events. This was followed by landscaping improvements funded by the Ripon Rotary Club, which included adding park benches, flower planters, an ADA accessible ramp and stage lighting for the bandstand.
“This new addition to the Village Green remains relatively unimproved, with most of the space consisting of a soft grass surface and wood-chip areas which creates accessibility issues,” said a press release from Main Street, Inc.
“ADA-accessible entry points and the concrete plaza will alleviate this problem, making it easier for individuals with mobility challenges to participate in community events. Additional lighting also will be installed, creating a safer space during evening hours. Students and local residents often gather at the park, which is just a short walk (less than one or two blocks) from the campus and downtown apartments.”
Cost of the project is approximately $200,000. Main Street has applied for grants to help offset expenses and the goal is to raise $75,000 through donations and sponsorships.
Main Street is hopeful the project can begin this summer.
One of those grants was applied for through the city to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Vibrant Spaces, which is a pilot program designed to assist with creating vibrant and engaging communities that make it easier to recruit and retain residents, sustain a robust labor force and enhance the local quality of life, city documents read.
“The first thing is we need to regrade the adjacent lots to create a more level surface, so it’s all on one level,” Tebon said. “And that’ll probably happen in the coming weeks, so we can have grass established by summer.
“The big thing is just making the space more accessible so that all segments of our community, can engage in the activities that take place there.”
Donations may be sent directly to Ripon Main Street or made online through GoFundMe at gofund.me/2fd00a64. Visit downtownripon.com/village-green.html for more information or to download the sponsorship/donation form.
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