On Wednesday, Milwaukee County Parks posted a message to its Facebook page regarding the proposal to open The Dock container bar on the upper level of the Bradford Beach pavilion, a move that some have questioned for a number of reasons.
Among the concerns voiced include the visual aesthetics of a bar made from a shipping container, the weight of the container on the upper level of the pavilion and the potential curtailing of public access to the upper level.
Wednesday’s message addressed some of those issues.
Last summer, Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission approved the container bar, an approval required because the pavilion is located in a city historic district.
It was also more recently discussed by the Lakefront Development Advisory Committee.
Now, it moves to the County Parks Department for technical review.
In its message Wednesday, the Parks Department noted that its agreements with private operators require public access, and it added that lack of funding – these private operator deals bring the parks much-needed revenue – also affects the ability to ensure public access to the parks.
“The greatest threat to public access is lack of funding for maintenance and repairs," the message said. "Just last year, for instance, many bathrooms and amenities had to be kept closed over the summer due to budget reductions for seasonal staffing.
“At Bradford Beach the footbridge across Lincoln Memorial Drive also had to be temporarily closed due to unsafe conditions, and the North Point parking lot is currently reduced in size due to high lake levels dumping large debris in the lot.
“The right partnerships can help raise funds for these needed repairs, increase access and provide a much-requested service, so Milwaukee County Parks staff are now reviewing the proposal from the Dock, as well as feedback from five public meetings, to determine if it will be in the best interests of beach-goers at Bradford Beach.”
Here is the message in full:
Plans for an expanded food & drink operation at Bradford Beach will undergo technical review by Milwaukee County Parks this spring.
The Bradford Beach pavilion has been used to provide food & drinks to beach-goers for the past 15 years, with The Dock LLC operating there for the past two years. This summer The Dock are proposing to expand their food & drink offerings by adding a modular ‘container bar’ and additional seating to the largely unused upper level of Bradford beach pavilion. The bar is designed so that it can be easily removed in the future should the lease with the Dock end.
The Dock’s plans for the new addition have been reviewed by the City of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Historical Preservation Committee and the Lakefront Development Advisory Committee (LDAC), a public committee who review all major projects on the public-owned lakefront land, and now the Dock’s proposal is being reviewed by Milwaukee County Parks.
When the previous operator decided to cease operations in 2018, Milwaukee County Parks issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a new vendor in early 2019. The Illinois based Dock LLC were the only company to reply to that RFP and agree to its terms – which include paying the County 5% of gross sales as well as a minimum of $100,000 towards a Park Improvement Fund, for the purpose of funding maintenance and repairs at the aging 1950’s beach pavilion.
As well as selling food and drink from the concessions stand and operating the ‘cabana huts’, staff at the Dock are required to regularly clean litter from the beach and clean and maintain the public bathrooms. This partnership will hopefully allow Milwaukee County Parks to focus more of our seasonal staffing dollars into roles such as lifeguards.
As with the vast majority of our public-private partnerships, such as Estabrook Beer Garden, the PEAK initiative at Tiefenhaler Park or the Philippine Center at Zablocki Park, our partnerships require that buildings remain owned by the public, and that adequate public access is maintained. The proposal from the Dock is no different – the building is still owned by Milwaukee County Parks, and public access to the upper level is still a requirement.
Dock staff are also helping increase accessibility at the beach for all – as they are responsible for lending out beach wheelchairs and managing the beach mats that allow wheelchair users to access the water.
Bradford Beach is also covered by Wisconsin’s Public Trust Doctrine, which declares that all navigable waters are "common highways and forever free" and held in trust by the State of Wisconsin. Any business holding a lease at the lakefront, including the Dock, Gift of Wings Kite Shop or jet ski rental companies, must follow the Doctrine and ensure public access.
Increasing access to public spaces is one of the main focuses of Milwaukee County Parks – and this proposal will be reviewed with that in mind. Currently, however, the greatest threat to public access is lack of funding for maintenance and repairs. Just last year, for instance, many bathrooms and amenities had to be kept closed over the summer due to budget reductions for seasonal staffing.
At Bradford Beach the footbridge across Lincoln Memorial Drive also had to be temporarily closed due to unsafe conditions, and the North Point parking lot is currently reduced in size due to high lake levels dumping large debris in the lot.
The right partnerships can help raise funds for these needed repairs, increase access and provide a much-requested service, so Milwaukee County Parks staff are now reviewing the proposal from the Dock, as well as feedback from five public meetings, to determine if it will be in the best interests of beach-goers at Bradford Beach.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.