Roger Campbell has seen a lot of bus stations. The truck driver delivers rigs to places all over the United States, then hops a bus (or train) back home to North Carolina.
On his first trip to Madison, he had this to say about the city's nonexistent Greyhound station: "This is crap, to be honest with you." Campbell said this while waiting inside a shelter at the city's North Transfer Point, which Greyhound has been using since the Badger Bus Depot on West Washington Avenue closed in August 2009. "I thought they had a bus station here."
Campbell had a long wait. It was not yet 10 a.m. on a Friday, and his bus wasn't scheduled to arrive until 7:45 that evening.
The city may also have a long wait - for a new station. More than a year after Greyhound started using the transfer point on Huxley Street, behind Oscar Mayer, it has no firm plans for locating a new station.
"At this time, there's no new news," says company spokesman Tim Stokes. "I'm sure we'll look at all possible avenues. But our main focus at this time is to find a convenient centralized location for the people of Madison."
Madison Metro general manager Chuck Kamp says Metro has suggested places Greyhound might use but has not heard anything back.
Chris Klein, a mayoral aide, says he spoke with Greyhound officials who said they're interested in using the future high-speed rail station on Wilson Street as a bus depot. But before taking steps to make that happen, the city wants commitments from Greyhound and other users.
"There's no point in designing an inter-city bus station if the bus companies aren't interested in being there," Klein says. "It's really dependent on the industry."
On Monday, Trish O'Kane led a bird-scouting expedition into Warner Park. Her party included six students from Sherman Middle School, paired with environmental studies students from the UW-Madison.
The long-envisioned partnership (see "Bless the Birds and Children," 11/19/09) is designed to get the middle school kids excited about wildlife in their neighborhood. But O'Kane, a UW grad student, says the college students are learning too: "My [UW] students had never been in the park. So the Sherman kids were able to tell them some things about the park. The mentoring works both ways."
The group is scheduled to meet each Monday. Over the course of the semester, the middle school students will keep a field journal and learn to identify 30 birds by sight and sound, aided by birding books and websites.
On the first outing, for which six students showed up, the group saw sandhill cranes and great blue herons. It's too early to know how many kids the program will ultimately pull in. "Next week, we could have five or 25," says O'Kane. "We'll work with whatever kids want to learn."
Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway is thrilled with the collaboration: "It's an example of someone in the neighborhood who is engaging with the school, helping to give the kids a positive activity and finding a creative use for the park."
Arts czar comes to town
While President Obama is scheduled to appear in Madison on Sept. 28, another Washington bigwig made a much quieter visit here last Thursday.
Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, met with city staff and got a tour of the proposed Central Park. The NEA just awarded a $50,000 grant to help pay for public art in the park.
Environmental artist Lorna Jordan is working on the overall site design for the park's "Great Lawn." According to the city's website, Jordan "creates environmental artworks that blur the boundaries between sculpture, ecology, infrastructure and architecture."
Karin Wolf, the city's arts program administrator, met with Landesman and says he was impressed with Madison's arts efforts. "He pumped us up," she says. "It was a good visit. Now we just need to do the work and make it happen."
Apology does the trick
Last month (Madison.gov, 8/13/2010), we wrote about a couple whose wedding plans at Gates of Heaven in James Madison Park were abruptly canceled due to a mix-up involving Madison Parks Division staff. Ethan Fassbender and Mindi Stickel ended up having to find a new location for their wedding ceremony.
Mayor Dave Cieslewicz sent Ethan's mom, Lynette Fassbender, an apology (PDF), saying, "It should not have happened."
Fassbender, who was infuriated by the response of the Parks Division, is satisfied with this: "All I wanted from the very beginning was an apology, a heartfelt sorry."
Death and donations
At a city committee meeting this week, Kathleen Woit of the Madison Community Foundation mentioned the difficulty of making plans not knowing if or how much people will leave in their wills. She said estate planners and lawyers routinely tell the foundation it can expect to get money, but not how much or from whom.
Committee member Jim Garner asked whether the foundation ever calls prospective donors to delicately ask about legacy donations. Replied Woit, "The joke is that when someone tells you you're in their will, they will [live to] be 125 years old."
Garner's comeback: "You're in my will."