Preserve Our Parks Winter 2010 Newsletter

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Eyes on the prize

Members of POP and The Park People, united as the Public Parks Alliance (PPA), are working for passage of a bill in Madison that would enable the creation of park districts in Wisconsin. If the PPA effort is successful, our parks could be removed from County control and put into a taxing district of their own. The goal is to provide stable, adequate funding. As is, park coffers can be raided for other County purposes. Last year, Milwaukee park supporters proposed a half-percent sales tax increase to fund parks, but the bill was not allowed a vote on the floor.

The park crisis can’t be overstated. Work staffs are halved. This year’s budget—$42.2 million—reflects a cut of over a million. The 2011 budget contains only $600,000 more than the 1983 budget, a staggering fact in light of inflation.

O’Donnell Dilemma

A question mark hovers over O’Donnell park, the plaza-park at the east end of Wisconsin Avenue. County Executive Scott Walker has proposed razing the park and selling its lakefront site to the highest bidder. Yet the County Board has put $6 million into the 2011 capital budget to repair the park and its built-in parking structure. A facade panel at the structure fell this summer, killing a teenaged boy.

POP believes, in light of its budget cuts, the County needs the $1.4 million net annual revenues from the parking structure. We are against disposing of public parkland.

Nature and nurture

More applause, please, for the Greater Johnson Park project, which continues its work to renew a schoolyard, a community garden and a formerly troubled park at 20th and Fond du Lac Avenue. The project has raised $1.6 M of its $6M goal and is ably led by the Center for Resilient Cities, an organization dedicated to increasing and improving urban greenspace. POP is helping to fundraise for the project. Write a check to Preserve Our Parks and mark it “for Johnsons Park.” If you have received a print copy of this newsletter, our enclosed envelope contains a box to check to direct a contribution solely to the Johnsons Park project. We hope you’ll check the box.

  • Johnsons Park will have its basic infrastructure installed this spring—paths, benches, utilities, trees (including apple and cherry trees), a playground and an exercise station.
  • At Brown Street Schoolyard, asphalt is giving way to greenery and an outdoor classroom will offer “Nature Explore,” a nationally recognized learning program.
  • After a year-long makeover, Alice’s Garden reopened to raves this summer, with its 120 plots fully subscribed.

A boost for butterflies

Here’s news from the County Grounds in Wauwatosa, as UWM scrambles to find donors to help buy 89 acres for a research and development campus:

  • A coalition of preservation and conservation groups is forming in hopes of buying 8.4 acres of the 89 acres UWM proposes to buy. The coalition would restore the historic Eschweiler buildings on the property and convert the surroundings into a nature preserve. Funds will be sought from individuals, foundations and the state Knowles-Nelson fund. The preservation initiative is being led by “Butterfly Barb” Agnew.
  • Philanthropist Michael Cudahy has offered $2 million in seed money to UWM, which needs $3 million more to make its purchase. The property’s total price is $13.55 million. Wauwatosa has agreed to ante up $12 million for roads, sewers, etc.

Well done, Molly

POP got good return on its dollar this summer when we contributed $3500 toward the salary of an Americorps aide for County natural-lands manager Brian Russart. The aide, Molly Lundberg, trained 1277 park volunteers, oversaw interns, crews and supervisors and helped create a land-management brochure. Russart estimates her work translated into a $52,675 value for each contributor to the salary.

A promise kept

When Columbia-St. Mary’s Hospital placed its helipad on the lakefront five years ago, it promised to use the space only while the hospital was under reconstruction. A new rooftop pad now serves the hospital, and the old pad’s asphalt, lights and fencing are being removed, opening more lakefront parkland to the public. A promise kept. Bravo.

Down but not out

Garden Homes Park was built as the centerpiece of a prototype neighborhood designed to meet housing needs after World War One. Today the small, lovely park is down on its luck—undervisited and attractive to drug users. POP wants to help find solutions.

As a start, we brought the AWE (Artists Working in Education) kids’ art program to the park for a week last summer, and we’ll continue exploring restoration ideas with the Garden Homes Neighborhood Association. The 1.8-acre park is at 4300 N. 26th Street.

Preserve Our Parks, a nonprofit watchdog group, battles to keep Milwaukee area parks open and green, resists incursions for non-park uses, and fights for funds to properly maintain one of the County’s greatest treasures, its parks system.