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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Wauwatosa Plan Has Some Residents Concerned About Possible Loss of Popular Natural Area

Landscapes of Space, LLC

Tuesday night, Wauwatosa’s common council reviewed a development plan for a huge swath of the city's side south. The draft, called the Wauwatosa Life Sciences District Master Plan, lays out businesses and residential development, as well as tending to traffic congestion.

Credit Susan Bence
Residents at Tuesday night's meeting.

But residents who filled the gallery seats and lined its walls seemed focused on one small section of the plan.

The small wooded area at the southeast corner of the Milwaukee County Grounds is known fondly by many as Sanctuary Woods.

Some worry the natural area might be swallowed up by construction projects, others fret about a proposed road that would cut through the parcel.

A few people held signs reading “Protect the County Grounds” but for the most part the crowd was quiet. Folks seemed to want to hear what city officials had to say.

Credit Susan Bence
Mayor Kathy Ehley

When Wauwatosa Mayor Kathy Ehley stepped to the microphone, she wanted to assure residents that the 148-page plan they might have perused on the city website is strictly a draft.

“It is my belief that at the end of this planning process, we will have a plan that balances environment preservation with economic growth opportunities, ” Ehley said. “A plan to protect beloved green space, as well as provide opportunities and guide decisions that foster economic development, job creation and added value.”

A team of consultants from GRAEF then attempted to condense the massive document into a short presentation.

Wauwatosa resident Patrick Hall said afterwards, he was breathing a sigh of relief.

He said the talk around townwas that crews would tear up Sanctuary Woods. It’s one of the only natural spaces remaining on the now largely-developed county grounds.

“So we thought this is something that we have to be heavily involved in. I was happy to see there was a lot of pullback from that misinformation and that those clouds were cast away, if you will, to bring out the truth of the matter.” Hall added, “Figure out where the baseline is right now and then we can start from there.”

Fellow resident Deb Fowler feels more skeptical. She too is a longtime Wauwatosa resident and owns a floral design shop in the village.

“Because we have lost so much of space of the County Grounds, what remains is an oak savannah, some incredible spring ephemerals, a pond with frogs and many species in there and it’s the last remaining spot,” she pointed out.

The consulting team maintains that Wauwatosa can strike a balance of preserving public green spaces while allowing the city to grow sustainably.

Right now, residents can share their perspectives by emailing the Wauwatosa city clerk. A public meeting is planned for February 7th.

Credit Susan Bence

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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