Last week, the Park People Board, a local advocacy group, called to create a parks district that was independent of county government. This proposal came after the firing of Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black.
The group believes the county can't afford the parks anymore, and therefore, The Park People asked that an elected board be granted the authority to tax so the parks wouldn't have to compete with other county services for tax dollars.
This is an interesting proposal. Personally, I spend a lot of time in parks, but mostly because I have children who, like all children, love a playground.
I often find the parks to be under-utilized, which surprises me because Milwaukee has so many beautiful green spaces that don't charge admission. It's free entertainment. ("Free" entertainment for those of us paying taxes, of course.)
I agree with The Park People that many of the parks need some maintenance because of recent tax cuts, but I really don't think the parks are in terrible shape, nor that beautifying the parks would bring that many more people into the parks system.
From my perspective, people just don't seem to go to parks as much in Milwaukee as they do in other cities. Maybe it's fear of crime. Maybe it's our less-nature-centered entertainment lives that are more focused on bars and restaurants.
In any case, I really wonder what, if anything, would get people to go to the county parks? More beer gardens like the one at Estabrook Park? Updated playgrounds? Off-leash dog areas? Anything, anything at all?
I disagree, totally, with the characterization of the parks as underutilized. I also believe that those whom feel the need to say that we should do more for the parks should very much do this. Organize and activate the communities around these parks. Start a friends group. Go and get this group to do some of the maintenance that they believe the parks need. Can't do it? Collect funds and donate it to the county to do the repairs that one wants. What holds people back from doing this?
I suggest allowing food trucks to vend in parks with more ease and less politics :).
I don't think parks need improvements. People today are just too conditioned to need constant stimulation. The idea of just....sitting....at a picnic table or on a blanket or simply....walking... on a quiet path isn't something that people today can fathom.
That aside, the parks in my area - Humboldt and Wilson are always packed with people jogging, picnicing, walking and sunning. Where are these parks that are supposedly underutilized? 'Cuz they're not in my area!
How about more low tech exercise areas for adults, with quarter mile jogging tracks and anchored exercise stations? In winter, flood a large area for use as a skating rink and open a hot beverage concession in the pavilion. Clean up the pavilions and restrooms--when I was a kid many park buildings had a janitorial person/attendant on duty during the day, plus a concession stand staffed by a real person. Taxes were lower then, yet the level of service in public accommodations was much higher. Go figure!
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