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Will Our Parks Be Saved?

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on April 10, 2010

Milwaukee Newsbuzz has a good article about the efforts to save Lake Park despite Scott Walker’s neglect.

The article talks about the Friends of Lake Park, citizens from the neighborhood who have invested thousands of their own dollars and uncounted hours of their own time to preserve the park where the County has fallen short.

However, there are areas that they just can’t do on their own and need the County to pull through, like restoration of the two bridges in the park.  This snippet puts it all in perspective (emphasis ours):

The bridge reopened last November. A similar rehabilitation for about the same cost is needed for the south Lions bridge, which has a crumbling foundation, and the county hopes to get federal Transportation Enhancement money to do this job this summer, Jim Keegan, Milwaukee County parks chief of planning and development, says. A masonry bridge at the north end of the park also needs restoration.

Can these latter two bridges be restored in tight times?

“We’re still responsible for the stewardship of the parks,” Keegan says. “But maybe we’ll not be as elaborate as we were before” with this work.

“We do expect that the county will try to find the resources for those major projects,” Cheney says. “Losing any one bridge in the park would be unacceptable to a large number of people. It would be devastating.”

Last year, Milwaukee County spent about $397,000 — $2,900 per acre – on Lake Park, says Brian Zimmerman, the park system’s chief of operations. Putting that outlay into perspective, the county will spend just under $40 million, or about $265 per acre, on the entire 150,000 acre parks system this year. Since 1986, Milwaukee County has eliminated more than two-thirds of the park system’s work force and 65% of its inflation-adjusted tax levy.

This continual decline worries those who love Lake Park.

The sales tax bill that was proposed by Representative Chris Sinicki would have done wonders to relieve this problem and allow the County to restore all of its parks to their grandeur, all while giving the property tax payers a much-needed break.

Even though the bill passed through the committee, I have heard that the bill might be hung up as state legislators bicker about whether it is needed, or if it is, if it is the best way to go about it.

I don’t see where their confusion could come from.  The parks are obviously suffering under Walker’s mismanagement, so the need is plainly there.

Furthermore, voters in Milwaukee County already passed a referendum more than a year and a half ago telling the legislature that we felt the sales tax was not only necessarily but also the best way to go in order to save the parks.

There are only a couple of weeks left before the legislature breaks.  Please make sure that you call your state representative and state senator to tell them to pass this bill before they leave.  If you don’t know who your representative or senator are, you can find out by clicking here.


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