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A Special WUWM News SeriesThe Milwaukee River allowed commerce and industry to thrive during the city's formative years and provided recreation. However, disregard for the river's health led to decades of decay.WUWM News explores recent developments to rejuvenate the Milwaukee River and their success at drawing people back to the city's historic arterial.

Will Cash Infusion Revitalize Polluted South Shore Beach?

S Bence

MillerCoors presented Milwaukee County with $500,000 to help revitalize Bay View's South Shore Beach on Wednesday.

 It has long ranked among the most polluted in the nation.

Parks Director John Dargle says the beach stands at the cusp of transformation.

“As you know it’s been ranked as one of the top ten worst beaches in America," Dargle says. "And as you can imagine this designation. We’re not proud of it, but to many of our partners, we are committed to change that, forever and get off this list."

Credit S Bence
MillerCoors gift celebration at South Shore Park

The county plans to dole out the half-million dollars from MillerCoors across five years, to help tackle water quality issues. That may include managing migratory birds and even setting up an educational kiosk.

Sandra McLellen is a researcher with the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences. She applauds plans to replace the large concrete parking lot that slopes toward the water. The county will replace it with permeable surfaces and rain gardens.

“They’re very tuned into doing it as green infrastructure, meaning capturing the water, letting it clean before going into the lake,” McLellan says.

McLellan also eyes the breakwaters designed to shelter the boats and the yacht club. She says those structures hamper natural waves and recirculation of lake water.

Just to the south, McLellan says water quality tests significantly better. Some suggest moving the beach there.

“We’ve taken a lot of samples over 14 years, at and least ten of those years, we’ve sampled the current beach and just 150 meters to the south. We have over a thousand water samples collected on the same day and we see that water quality is forty times better,” McLellan says.

Despite the celebration Wednesday, lifelong Bay View resident Don Kozinski says he’s skeptical and frustrated.

“I was born in 1963 in Bay View, my whole life. When I was a kid, I swam here. When they built that wall, they weren’t concerned. They should have drainage here, you know flowage. It’s nice to put money in and make it look pretty, but what’s going to save the children. It’s still going to be the same thing after they put all that money in here and they don’t fix the problem,” Kozinski says.

Unlike Kozinski, fellow Bay View resident Katie Williams says she has never been swimming at the beach, but she does do a lot of kayaking here.

“This is actually a great place to go kayaking, because if it’s really really windy, you can stay inside the breakwall, so it’s perfect,” Williams says.

Williams thinks the green infrastructure planned is a step in the right direction.

“Another thing that the parks got was one of the combers that actually churns up the sand so that all the e-Coli will exposed to the light, so it’s like a multi-faced management plan,” Williams says.

Another movement to end the stagnant state of Shore South Park.  

Credit S Bence
A busy bird day at South Shore

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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