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You Can Weigh in on Milwaukee County Parks’ Future

Leaders in Milwaukee County's parks department are asking residents to weigh in on the system via an online survey. That input will be used to help craft a master plan.

Why the planning?

Although Milwaukee County is rich with green space - 15,000 acres of parks, the century-old system comes with a price.

According to a 2009 audit, the parks face $200 million in deferred maintenance and addressing it will require the county to make some tough decisions.

Credit Susan Bence
Chris Martinez's two-year-old daughter races to return to the slide.

Resident Chris Martinez thinks there has to be a way to preserve county parks. He grew up playing in Mitchell Park; his two young daughters love West Milwaukee on West Burnham.

“I think we should spend a little more money on parks; keep the kids busy, out of trouble. I’m sure there’s a way,” Martinez says.

Martinez’s girls squeal with delight as they romp, then rocket down the slide.

“The little one is two and the oldest one is six and the little one, whenever we drive by here she want to stop. It’s something she really looks forward to. Probably why we keep coming to this one, it always clean,” Martinez says.

He didn’t know about the county park survey, neither did Jessica Barnes.

Her kids just bounded out of the car and bee-lined for the playground. The mom of five says they frolic in this park nearly five days a week.

“We don’t have a lot of money – coming to the park is free it’s just nice – they like to feed the ducks. I’d be kind of sad to see a lot of them close, but it might be better to have less parks but better quality ones. Because this one is great. I love it,” Barnes says.

Eight miles north, Brenda Jones is walking her sprightly dog though McGovern Park. She guides me across the street, saying neighbor Minnie Harmon is the neighborhood park expert.

Credit Susan Bence
McGovern Park features free fishing clinic in the spring. Neighbor Minnie Harmon loves that tradition, but says the lagoon needs to be cleaned up.

Harmon tells me she thought she’d died and gone to heaven 40 years ago when she bought a house that hugs McGovern Park.

She raised her three sons here.

“There was a time when we had 4th of July events and the park would be full of people. There would be singing, ice cream, hotdogs, games,” Harmon adds, “We used to have a pool over there, that’s many years back, where families could go swimming and there were lifeguards.”

Harmon helped form a block club. It aims to give neighborhood kids positive direction by improving the park’s offerings. She says at the top of the wish list is adding lights to the picnic shelter.

“The kids like to do spoken word, so you need electricity for the spoken word. We get the lagoon cleaned, I think that’s pretty much my main two focuses right now,” Harmon says.

Credit Milwaukee County Parks

She feels county government should use tax money to cover the basics, then block clubs like hers can also pitch-in.

“We have been working on a couple of grants to try and do some programming this coming summer of 2017.” Harmon adds, “We want to do our part, but we need help.”

Friends groups have come to the aid of some Milwaukee County parks. There’s also been talk of turning some over to municipalities.

Several county leaders have indicated that every option will be on the table.

County residents can share their thoughts and concerns about the future of their favorite Milwaukee County Parks through tomorrow, Friday, November 18th.

Credit Susan Bence
Pulaski in Cudahy is one of the County Parks shepherded by a friends group.

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