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Plans Underway to Pave Lake Mendota

A measure to alleviate parking difficulties on the isthmus is taking a radical approach. The plan: pave over one of the lakes.

Laura Markowitz
April 01, 2019
Construction happening on Lake Mendota.

A measure to alleviate parking difficulties on the isthmus is taking a radical approach. The plan: pave over one of the lakes.

On Monday, Alderman Sylvester Sludge of District 21 announced a deal with MAL & Co. Development to drain and fill in Lake Mendota. The multiphase project will be carried out over the next three to five years, during which 500 million cubic meters of water will be pumped out and replaced by 1.5 trillion tons of soil (give or take a few billion tons).

Although the current deal does not expressly include plans for a landfill, Sludge indicated that he would be open to the idea as an alternative to filling in with soil. “Heck, the lake’s already half full of garbage, so what’s the difference?” he said.

Following the removal of the lake, the 9,740-acre space will be developed with multilevel parking structures, luxury apartments, commercial spaces, and a golf course.

“Look, it’s just a big puddle,” Sludge said of the lake. “Just a big waste of space that doesn’t do anything or contribute to society. I’m all about families and creating jobs. I’m talking about turning this space into something really useful. People will be able to take their kids to this golf course. And then the kids can work there while the parents golf. That’s valuable family time. That builds character.”

Sludge denied that the move would negatively impact local businesses, including the Memorial Union Terrace and Wisconsin Hoofers, whose proximity to the lake is a significant factor in their popularity and business model. “Have you ever tried finding a parking spot by the Union? It’s a nightmare. Think how many more people will visit Hoofers once there’s a thousand acres of parking garages right next door,” Sludge said.

Local environmental scientists, urban planners, economists, and tourism officials expressed concern that the move would likely incite mass flooding, decimate property values, drain billions of dollars from the local economy, destroy the habitats of nearly 60 different threatened or endangered species, deplete the Yahara River and every other body of water it touches south of the isthmus, and cause a catastrophic drop in municipal well levels — all leading to the city of Madison being rendered utterly uninhabitable and abandoned in less than a decade.

Sludge replied: “Yeah, but the parking though.”

It’s unclear how the measure to pave the lake was approved, given that none of the other members of the City of Madison Common Council saw or voted on it. In response to objections that this is not how city government works and the move is most likely illegal, Sludge stuffed his fingers in his ears and said, “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!”

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