Portage Parks & Recreation offers people of all ages the opportunity to picnic, hike, play, and ride all year round. Whether bird watching at Lakefront and Riverwalk Park, or sledding at Countryside Park, Portage Parks & Recreation have opportunities for the whole family. Jenny Orsburn, superintendent of the department, says they have been working hard to make sure the facilities and activities are abundant for the community.
“The biggest project we’re working on is our website and online registration. It doesn’t sound glamorous, but we’ve never done it before. Right now, everyone who wants to register for a class or program, or rent a facility, has to stop by and fill out papers. We just started taking credit cards last year. By May we should have the site up and we’re on our way to making it happen. We’re moving fast. There will be calendars, prices, room set ups, programming information all on the site and you can just register online. We impact thousands of people through our programs so this allows us to provide a better service and allows us to grow and this gives us the capacity to do that,” she says.
“New to our programs this year is our Mother’s Day event. We had success with our Harvest Fest with a lot of jewelry vendors so we are allowing them to come and offer their handmade jewelry for Mother’s Day, so people can come in and buy a gift for mom, enjoy spa services, chocolates, and it will be a lot of fun. This will be on May 4th at Woodland Park. But we also are focusing on improving existing events, and so one of our most popular events, the Haunted Hayride, we have been adding electricity to the grounds so there will be better scenes out there. We are also moving our market to the Founders Square parking lot behind the university and improving that park, adding a splash pad and a small amphitheater which we hope to have by 2014. This will include an improvement in infrastructure to create a permanent home for the market and is a cooperative effort with the Redevelopment Commission, who owns the property,” Orsburn says.
“This year again we are managing the Lakefront and Riverwalk Park, offering environmental opportunities and educational classes. We’ve hired a teacher this year to help bring these programs and you can drop in on a class. Our concession area is still very popular there. We are also continuing to make improvements with our two most successful programs, soccer and softball, with upgrades at Imagination Glen Park with the soccer turf and concession stands. We have also been improving the indoor soccer turf at Oakwood and use that facility through the spring and summer. It’s definitely a popular program that works well when the weather is crummy. We are installing a net system to protect visitors,” she says.
Orsburn continues, “One of the big improvements in an existing facility has been the installation of an elevator at Woodland Park. It will be done the first week of May and we also are putting in new carpeting and new furniture. This is our home so it’s good to invest in it. Cargill has granted us a significant amount of money to install a community garden at Woodland Park which will be done in May. This really brings together the community for educational programs and volunteer opportunities. We had success with a smaller garden at Gilbert Park, so this will be similar, on a larger scale.”
The City of Portage offers a number of parks with different facilities and opportunities, including the Lakefront and Riverwalk Park with hiking, swimming, fishing, and bird watching; Woodland Park with rental facilities, dog park, walking trail, open space, skatepark, and sledding; Frank Gilbert Jr. Memorial Park; Imagination Glen Park with softball, soccer, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing; Countryside Park with playground, ball field, fishing pond, sledding hill, shelter, and an historical complex; Olson Memorial Park; Wolfe Park; Perry Park;
Robert's Park; Community Park; and Deer Trail Park. There are also a number of paved trails such as the Prairie Duneland Trail and Iron Horse Trail, and hiking and mountain bike trails at Lakefront Park, on the Outback Trail, and at Deer Trail Park.
“Taking stock of what we have at our facilities and parks, and making sure we keep our parks safe and clean and well maintained, that is the focus of our work,” Orsburn says