One Woman's Decision To Fund a Public Park

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MTT News Desk's picture
Matt Geiger
Lucille Taylor, left, examines planning documents at Middleton City Hall with public lands manager Penni Klein.

Lucille Taylor had long intended to leave the bulk of her estate to the City of Middleton for the creation of a new park. There was only one problem: the spry 82 year old – who mows her own lawn, shovels her own snow, and has been known to leap in and out of the cab of a large pickup truck when the need arises – appears to be a daunting foe for the grim reaper.

So Taylor, in a spare moment between volunteering at the senior center, weeding the community garden at city hall, and walking or biking throughout the Good Neighbor City, recently decided people would rather have their park sooner than later. She decided to give the city $100,000 to get the ball rolling.

When city administrator Mike Davis told Taylor she was on the verge of becoming something of a local celebrity, she responded with typical aplomb: “I thought I was just a plain old lady.”

Taylor’s gift will allow work to begin within the next several months on the Harvey John and Lucille Taylor Memorial Park, located with the Communities of Bishops Bay development.

Taylor presented city leaders with a check last week, and she plans to leave an undisclosed sum, in order to help finish the job, as part of her life estate.

She says it began eight years ago, when her husband, Harvey John, died. Taylor marched into Davis’ office and asked a simple question. “I wanted to know if I had enough money to build a park,” she recalled.

Davis responded in the affirmative, and Taylor, the city, and lawyers on both sides sat down to figure out how to turn her vision into a reality.

The result – assuming the plan gains final approval – will be a colorful place where children play archeologist in sand dotted with cracked dinosaur eggs, parents enjoy colorful flowerbeds, athletes compete in a range of sports, and those who love walking and biking on trails will come and go as they please.

“Everything on here, Lucille helped design,” said Penni Klein, the city’s public lands manager, pointing to a map of the playground, which will be constructed first. “She likes orange and red and yellow a lot.”

“And they let me pick the colors,” Taylor interjected.

Standing in a meeting room at city hall, Klein and Taylor were pouring over large printouts of architectural renderings showing the park.

The pair spent countless hours touring the city’s current parks and open space, allowing Taylor to copy components she liked to create her own vision. “She’s the best friend I ever had,” Taylor said of Klein. “She won’t quit until something gets done.”

When asked why she decided to use her money to build a park, Taylor gave a simple reply. “My husband and I never had any kids, and now he’s dead,” explained Taylor. “I like to watch kids play, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t visit a park, so this seemed like the best thing to do for everyone.”

When children frolic at Harvey John and Lucille Taylor Memorial Park, they will doing so on the same land where Taylor played when she was young. Taylor was raised on a farm in what was then the Town of Westport but has since been annexed into the City of Middleton. She loved agricultural life, and by funding a park she will ensure that, at the very least, a small part of the prime farmland where she grew up will not be developed into residential housing.”

“They’ve taken nearly all the good farmland and turned it into houses,” she lamented.

“This way she knows this will stay a park,” Klein, who also grew from agricultural roots and still farms to this day, added.

Developer Terrence Wall plans to build housing for as many as 6,000 residents on the surrounding land over the coming decade. The Community of Bishops Bay was recently distributed out from T. Wall Properties L.L.C. to its primary shareholders, who formed a new independent company managed by Wall and governed by a newly formed board of directors made up of representatives of the investor group in the Bishops Bay company.

Bishops Bay is a master planned community located between Highways Q and M in the City of Middleton and Town of Westport on the north side of Lake Mendota.  The development encompasses approximately 750 acres that will be developed into seven distinct neighborhoods that will include 1,300 single-family home lots and 1,600 multi-family units. 

Davis said Middleton is fortunate to have Taylor in its midst.

 “Lucille Taylor is an example of the best of her generation,” he said. “She is someone who has scrimped and saved her whole life and who has chosen to give back to the community she calls home.  We are fortunate to have such citizens in Middleton who exemplify the Good Neighbor City spirit.  Lucille is an inspiration to me as someone who wants the community to continue to thrive for our posterity”.

Mayor Kurt Sonnentag agreed. “Lucille is an extraordinary person who is leaving an extraordinary gift to the citizens of Middleton,” he said. “Her generosity is overwhelming.”


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