Preserve Our Parks Summer 2010 Newsletter

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How to pave paradise: Expand a lakefront parking lot

To put the question bluntly: Should a private Milwaukee corporation—well known and highly respected—be allowed to expand its for-profit parking lot on lakefront parkland?
The War Memorial Corporation (WMC) is petitioning Milwaukee County for 2.55 acres of parkland north of its building, on which to place an extension of its present parking lot. The WMC wants 88 more spaces to accommodate the cars of downtown workers, Rotary Club members and other frequent users of its building, plus summer festival-goers, who pay premium parking rates.

POP opposes the lot expansion and has filed a Notice of Claim with the County making this clear. The expansion would gobble a valuable greensward. It would violate major restrictions governing use of the land in question. It would compete for revenues with the County’s nearby O’Donnell parking structure (yes, it is true that the recent collapse of a concrete slab at the structure puts its future into question). This is a slippery-slope issue. If the WMC can take parkland for parking, who can’t?

The Lakefront Development Advisory Commission, a special review body established a few years ago to vet lakefront projects, is deliberating now. If the WCM project proceeds, the County’s Parks, Energy and Environment Committee will review it next, followed by a final vote by the County board. Citizen input is needed. Please ask your supervisor to oppose the lot expansion.

Call the County board receptionist at 278-4222 for information on contacting the supervisors.

Legislature stonewalling on parks funding

During the last year and a half, Preserve Our Parks along with The Park People and the Public Parks Alliance worked with state legislators Jon Richards and Christine Sinicki on legislation to ensure a stable, sustainable funding source for our County parks. Buoyed by the passage of an advisory referendum for a sales tax increase, we helped legislators craft language for bill AB 504, which would increase the sales and use tax by a half percent to supplant property tax support for parks and other amenities and would increase park funding sig. With our help, AB 504 passed through the Ways and Means Committee, but it was stonewalled by the Assembly and Senate majority leaders, who would not release it for a vote.

We then turned our efforts to creation of a bill that would enable a Park District for Milwaukee County. Unfortunately, the legislative session ended before the bill could gain traction. POP is now preparing for the new session starting in January 2011, when a park district bill will be introduced. We will not rest until we see adequate funding for our parks.

Alice’s Urban Garden, by the numbers

Alice’s Urban Garden at 20th and Garfield has been a community growing space for years. But as part of the Greater Johnsons Park Initiative, it now has been completely renovated and redesigned. A recent garden newsletter offers statistics spelling out the garden’s new success.

The garden covers two acres. Its 120 plots are rented by100 individuals and groups. A summer’s evening usually finds 60 workers in the garden. They may speak any of three languages — English, Hmong, Burmese (with maybe some Creole and Geechee thrown in). Classes are held on subjects ranging from cooking to the history of the Underground Railroad. Popular garden potluck suppers draw fifty people or more.

Plots rent for $20 a summer. Renters get free seeds, seedlings and use of tools. In the garden are water sources, benches, a greenhouse, tool sheds, grills, an inviting pavilion. A challenge grant of $212,000 from the David and Julia Uihlein Charitable Foundation inspired others to help meet the total garden rehabilitation cost of $427,375. The Johnsons Park initiative will also renew the Brown Street schoolyard and Johnsons park itself. POP is part of the fundraising team.

Yes, but what about the park?

Small, lovely, crescent-shaped Garden Homes Park at 26th and Ruby is caught in a neighborhood wrangle. The pastor of a local church and school insists his students may no longer use the park for recess because of its drug reputation. Instead, he wants to build a large playground at his school, which would entail razing 3 nearby houses. Preservationists and neighbors are upset. The Garden Homes neighborhood — built in the 1920s and still beautiful, though partly deteriorated — is a prototype of a famous, early, utopian type of neighborhood design.

Neighbors are considering solutions. Several housing agencies have offered help. POP is asking its perennial question, “What about the park?” To help make the park more inviting, POP is funding a 5-day program of art experiments Aug.15-20 from10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Each day Artists Working in Education (AWE) will bring a truck full of art supplies to the park, gather the kids at tables under the trees and turn them loose on a series of projects. AWE is nationally recognized for its creative work with children in parks and schools. Call 933-3897 for dates of the AWE art sessions. The programs are free. All are invited.

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.