The Lakes have always been essential to Madison’s civic identity and character – there is much beloved about the relationship between Madison’s unique culture and its vibrant natural heritage. The Lakes also serve as a mirror, reflecting the City literally on a bright day and symbolically in terms of where investments are made. Madison’s future treatment of Lake Monona offers the chance to reflect City values to be equitable, welcoming, and environmentally healthy.
While there have been ambitious plans and much to applaud about the Lake’s evolution, there is much unmet potential today. Climate change, community open space needs, and shifts in transportation patterns have increased the urgency to fully leverage the Lake’s role in contemporary Madison. Change on Lake Monona has been constant. The guiding principles of this Framework Plan emerged from an intention to honor and integrate multiple past legacies while staying true to 21st century values – many of which seek to evolve past the last century’s decision-making to a more equitable, healthy future.
This Framework Plan imagines a revival for Lake Monona – one that honors layers of the past while embracing a powerful long-term vision for all of the community.
A Healthy and Functional Ecosystem
The first foundational move of this Framework Plan is to establish a living shoreline for the entire 1.7 miles of the site. A living shoreline is an ecologically restored and dynamic edge that provides multiple benefits, including water quality enhancement, improved habitat value, and more seasonal beauty. Across the country and around the world, communities are reclaiming the water’s edge in this way – providing a great wealth of demonstrated success, even in dynamic and ice-prone environments.
Safe and Welcoming Paths for All
The highest need reported by the Madison community in all feedback is for safe access to, from, and along the Lake Monona waterfront. This Framework Plan delivers on the desire for multiple, separated paths that allow for different types of movement. Importantly, the paths offer equitable access to different users – from commuters on John Nolen Drive and the bicycle path to neighbors looking for a slow, nature-engaged stroll. Frequent overpasses and underpasses allow for safe passage across John Nolen Drive.
Vital and Active Through the Seasons
The Monona Lakefront comprises three districts, each offering distinct activities appropriate to the location, ecology, and community values. The City District offers a signature, urban waterfront, hilltop park with event spaces, active fitness, play, and extensive lake viewing areas. The Causeway District provides a nature-engaged journey along the Lake’s restored marsh edge with fishing, bird-watching and meditation. The Park District balances new uses at the existing Olin Park with desires to respect the park’s neighborhood qualities, providing the Southside a lakefront of its own.