Kenosha.com spoke with Lydia Spottswood, chair of the building and grounds committee for the Southport Park Association board of directors, about the concept plan.
“The city adopted a master plan in 2013 for Southport Park and a private-sector partner was envisioned,” Spottswood said. “That master plan became the driving force behind the formation of the Southport Park Association in 2014.
“In 2017, we signed a memo of understanding with the city, outlining our respective roles in the partnership. Our first major focus was to assist with the renovation of the beach house. Once that was underway, we turned our attention to the rest of the park, which I think is about 25 acres, all along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Even though the park is still pretty torn up from the revetment project, this seemed like a good time to think about a vision for the future.”
“We’d like to get the beach house open to the public on a more continuous basis, which probably means getting a private operator involved. In the past, access to the building was a rental situation. The building was in such poor repair and deteriorating. It’s hard to get private-sector money into public buildings, but we think we have a great opportunity to bring private money or public grant money into the landscaping.”
The exciting part of the association’s concept plan is the establishment of a prairie garden,
similar to the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Like Lurie Garden, the Southport Park area would be planted with durable native plants and grasses that would require minimal care after the first year or two.
“We envision using native species with high use of native grasses, both of which will drive down maintenance costs,” Spottswood said. “These types of gardens are getting more and more popular with cities and their public spaces.”
Blooms within prairie gardens are typically gone by late fall, but foliage and grasses can provide colorful swaths of oranges and reds and add depth to the autumn landscape. Besides providing seeds to feed birds in the fall and winter, prairie foliage can offer shelter to wildlife and texture for a winter landscape–especially with grasses.
The deep roots of prairie plants and nutrients provided by them help build the rich black soil that was tilled for farming in the 1800s. Those deep roots help stabilize sloped areas and prevent erosion. This can be especially vital for shorelines along lakes, rivers or wetlands.
The plants also help prevent pollutants from washing into waterways. Prairie plants need less water than most, thanks to their hardiness and deep root systems. Prairie plants are natural pesticides.
Butterfly weed, blazing star and purple clovers are among the many native prairie plants that attract and nourish butterflies, bees and a wealth of beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps, which don’t sting people and will keep spiders, ticks and insects that harm plants under control.