Orton Fest to Celebrate Survival

Park continues to triumph over tornados, boulevards and development

Anders Osborn during last year's Orton Park Festival.

Anders Osborn during the 2012 Orton Park Festival.

In its long history, Orton Park has had to survive many threats. In 1924 the City of Madison proposed a boulevard with a 12-foot median that would bisect the park. Proponents argued this would improve traffic flow from King Street to the Eastside following the recently opened Rutledge Street bridge across the Yahara. It seems that this route had become a very popular artery for “far” Eastsiders who wanted to avoid railroad crossings at Williamson Street and¬†Atwood Avenue.

The opposition to that project¬†ninety years ago echoes the same reasons why today’s residents guard the tranquility of Madison’s oldest park: its too popular with children. The festival, begun in the middle 1960s, is in its 49th year and grew out of general neighborhood organizing against various development schemes and for neighborhood strength and cohesion.

In the last days of spring, despite rabid stewardship over the years by park lovers including the Friends of Orton Park, Mother Nature also attempted to remake the land when an EF-1 tornado barreled through the Marquette neighborhood early on June 17. While some trees were lost, the park never lost face with even the fallen trees repurposed in a resourceful way.

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