Be sure to read the plaque on the Lake Mendota side of the Willow Creek Bridge. It commemorates an organization that profoundly shaped the City of Madison and the UW campus.
In 1894, a group of civic-spirited Madisonians formally incorporated the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association to pursue their vision of a network of roads to be used to access the outer edges of the Four Lakes area.
The first road segment to be built using MPPDA subscription funds was the Bay Lane, connecting the new bridge at Willow Creek (then called University Creek) to Lake Mendota Drive, where George Raymer had earlier built a network of publicly accessible drives on his farm property.
The Bay Lane (later Willow Drive) involved some challenging engineering, since part of the route followed a sand bar through a marshy area (now the Class of 1918 Marsh and University Bay Marsh). Under the inspiration and guidance of J.M. Olin, thousands of trees, shrubs, and flowers were planted along the route to create a scenic experience for visitors escaping the city for “pleasure drives” in their horse-drawn carriages and later their motor cars. Some of these early tree plantings can still be seen along Lake Mendota Drive-—most notably the twisting catalpas and large oaks.