Rice Lake's parks and recreation system should consider the city's aging population, particularly females, according to a 2014-2019 parks and recreation plan that will be presented to the Park Board today, Feb. 19. The board meets at 4:45 p.m. at City Hall. The plan, which is necessary to secure state grants, also suggests the city focus on a lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and recommends a number of changes to maintain and improve the city's parks system. The plan notes that the latest U.S. Census shows that Rice Lake has an aging population, with a growing number of people 55 and over. That population has a significant gap between elderly males and females. According to the latest census data, Rice Lake has 649 males over age 65, compared to 1,139 females in the same age group. "The City will need to think about the recreational needs of the elderly, especially focusing on the interests of the female population," states the plan, which was written by recreation coordinator Ellen Daniels of the Community Services Department. "With the rising numbers of 'baby boomers' it is even more important to involve our retiring and 55+ citizens into community park development, beautification projects and develop programs that will provide more outdoor recreational activities for their use, such as walking and fitness clubs. "Although retirees and senior citizens constitute a large proportion of the population in the community, they have been neglected in recreational planning and programming," states the plan. The plan states that grandparents play a large role in helping to raise grandchildren and that they often visit parks. The report also notes that the city has a lower median income than either Barron County or the state. In 2009, the city had a median annual household income of $35,153, compared to $44,149 for Barron County and $52,627 for the State of Wisconsin.
Getting outside In a section labeled goals and objectives, the report states: "Recreation demand and trends have changed its focus away from passive and competitive recreation and more on health and wellness and the need to bring children, families and adults back outside. With the rising numbers of child and adult obesity, it is an opportunity for parks and recreation to inspire healthier lifestyles and increase their mental and physical well-being in a natural environment. "Research has also linked the presence of parks, trails, enjoyable scenery and other people exercising to increase physical activity," states the report. The report also notes that the city is not user-friendly to those with disabilities. "Many people are still limited to segregated recreation and leisure choices. People with disabilities and diversity have had very little support offered for individual participation in community settings that offer greater opportunities for outdoor recreation, social connections and relationships. A segment of the population who would like use of public parks is restricted because of the lack of adaptive/ADA facilities play structures or accessibility to them. "Community officials must recognize that present programs more often than not have little to offer these people in the way of safe and pleasurable recreational experiences. Therefore, it is recommended that all parks be scheduled to include features that will aid people with disabilities. "Facilities for people with disabilities should be a priority to ensure that all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation and comply with the provisions found in the Americans with Disabilities Act," states the report.
Recommendations The report makes many specific recommendations for specific parks. The report recommends ADA compliant sidewalks to the playground area at Veterans Park, and roof repairs to the band shelter there. It recommends remodeling the bathrooms at Shudlick Park to be ADA compliant; new picnic facilities at Hiawatha Park; stairs down to the river at Holsum Park, and restoring the stone shelter at Indian Mounds Park. The report also recommends removing the steam engine display at Knapp Stout Park. That was requested by Barron County, which controls the park. Changes at Narrows Park include addition of a swimming access, adding more handicapped parking stalls, and installing a sand volleyball court. Changes at the dog park include planting more trees and adding dog watering stations. Changes at the swimming pool include adding ADA compliant parking and a unisex ADA compliant changing room. Changes at Richter Park include adding a basketball court, while changes at Roux Park include remodeling bathrooms to be ADA compliant, extending sidewalks, and creating quiet sitting zones. An ADA compliant fishing wharf is recommended at the Stein Street Park. The report also makes many other maintenance and improvement recommendations for the city parks and trails system.