A Closer Look
Story by Teresa Nguyen
Teens would “work on their tans” then cool off in the pond on a hot summer day. Sometimes, the sand was so hot, you had to run over it to get to the cool water. After a long day of swimming, kids would stop at Arbuthnot Dairy or Kent’s for ice cream before going home.
Digging your toes in the sand, sun-kissed skin, carefree summer days, the laughter of friends and cooling off in a pond…those were the days! You remember when, as a teen, your heart would skip a beat when you’d see that cute boy or that beautiful girl you’d been dreaming about. Yes, beach time memories will stay with us forever, nostalgically taking us to a time in our lives that seemed would really last, never expecting life to change quite so much.
If we’re lucky enough to take our children to those same places someday, then we’ve had it better than a lot of folks. If one can take grandchildren there, well, that’s pretty amazing! We have exactly such a place in Janesville that has been around now for over eight decades!
Lions Beach is located at 1401 Palmer Dr. Janesville, Wisconsin, on the east end of Lions Park Pond. The pond is a small, roughly 8.3 acres body of water, located just southeast of the Rotary Botanical Gardens. The spring fed Lions Pond connects to Trout Pond inside the gardens. Lions Pond has a maximum depth of 18 feet.
Visitors have access to the lake from a public boat landing on the south side of the pond and a public beach on the east shore. Fishing is a popular pastime at Lions Pond. The fish in the pond include Panfish, Largemouth, Bass and Trout.
1939 - The Janesville Noon Lions Club donated this piece of land, once part of a large sand and gravel pit, to the City of Janesville, opening a new beach at Lion’s Park.
1950 – The Janesville Noon Lions Club contributed funds to build a new bathhouse, which has served the beachgoers for many years.
A Janesville Gazette describes the "new beach" in 1939
Stone art work along the bathhouse wall at the drinking fountain.
Decades of Memories
Janesville residents old enough remember calling the beach the “Sand Pit”. Kids would walk or ride their bikes to the pond, and some of the girls wore tight rubber swim caps to keep their hair from getting wet and dirty.
Back in the day, there were lifeguards on duty, a couple of piers and at one point, there was a “high dive”. You had to prove you could swim to the lifeguard before you could go up there to dive.
Lifeguards could be heard blowing their whistles and yelling at rowdy swimmers or rule breakers.
Many area children would learn to swim through daily Red Cross lessons at the pond.
Kids could get a season pass to Lions Beach and you’d get a tag to pin to your suit for your locker. It was a great place to meet your friends, to make new ones and to swim all day. You would hear, "It is now three o'clock. Would everyone please leave the water!” on the loudspeaker to clear the water for a rest period.
Long before learning the dangers of the sun’s rays, teens would “work on their tans” then cool off in the pond on a hot summer day! Sometimes, the sand was so hot, you had to run over it to get to the cool water. After a long day of swimming, kids would stop at Arbuthnot Dairy or Kent’s for ice cream before going home.
There were Beach Dance Parties at night and teens would dance in the sand to their favorite pop hits on the loudspeakers. It was the highlight of a summer!
A few residents recall mischievously sneaking into the pond after it was closed to go skinny dipping!
Fast forward several decades and the pond is still in use!
In 2017 - As a part of its Centennial Community Legacy Project, the Noon Lions Club spent about $15,000 for improvements and city workers installed 3 metal picnic tables, new volleyball standards and a net.
1951 photo of Lion's Beach where crowds of kids spent their summers.
2016 photo of Lions Beach - Photo by Marsha Mood Photography
A list of new guidelines can currently be found on the City of Janesville’s website:
After Labor Day, the pond will remain open for fishing and kayaking.
The club also repainted the facility’s three beach shelters, its concrete play items, and purchased additional shade-creating shelters.
The ultimate goal of the Lions Club is to improve access and increase utilization of Lions Beach.
2018 - A bicycle-repair station with simple tools and a pump was installed in front of the bathhouse as a memorial to a Lions Club member.
2020 – The global coronavirus pandemic led to the closing of the beach for that season.
2021 - The City will open the swimming season this year on May 29th and will close the beach on September 6th.
The water quality of the pond is tested weekly and the City of Janesville posts the results on their website. The city will post updates on the water quality for this coming beach season. Occasionally, the beach is closed due to contamination from the local water fowl populations leading to high levels of bacteria in the water. This can pose health risks to anyone swimming in the water.
The following exciting announcement is from a City of Janesville March 18th Facebook Post:
In recognition of the Janesville Noon Lions Club's 100th anniversary next year, they have begun a fundraising effort to install a new shade structure at Lions Beach.
This upcoming project is the latest contribution in the Lions' long history of support for Janesville parks. The City extends our gratitude to the club for its continued partnership and service to our community.
Thank you, Lions Club, for continuing to fund improvements to the Lions Beach area!