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Friday, October 31, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 37.0° F  
CITIZEN DAVE: Thoughts and ideas about city building from Madison's former mayor
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Citizen Dave: Elver Park works best for Independence Day fireworks
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Elver Park
Elver Park
Credit:City of Madison

I kind of like the idea of moving Madison's big Rhythm & Booms fireworks display downtown. I can imagine how nice it could be to watch them off a quiet John Nolen Drive and against the backdrop of the Capitol and the city skyline. I'm just not sure the practical considerations for that idea justify it.

First, there's the issue of fireworks chemicals and casings winding up in Lake Monona. Here's what UW–Madison limnologist Steve Carpenter wrote me about that when I asked for his take on it:

Even if the chemicals turn out to be a minor issue, Madisonians might ask themselves whether they really want all the firework trash in the lake. It's gotta be easier to pick up the trash from a terrestrial site. This incident reminds me of the era when people thought the lakes should be used as the dumping ground for all sorts of stuff. Do we really want to treat the lakes as a dump, or do we see them as a valuable asset for the city and the county?

Then there's the issue of access. It's possible that a couple hundred thousand people might want to see this event, but the city would be closing down John Nolen Drive, one of the main access routes to the downtown. That works well for Ride the Drive, so maybe we can make this work as well. However, that event attracts somewhere around 20,000 people, many of whom, of course, ride their bikes to the event.

Finally, the city would be trading both the original Rhythm & Booms setting at Warner Park and the display at Elver Park in exchange for a single show over Lake Monona.

From a logistical standpoint, Elver just works far better than downtown. It's much easier to move people in and out, and you don't have the lake pollution issues.

On balance, it seems to me that the better choice is to make the Elver Park fireworks display the city’s official Independence Day celebration.

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