By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 19, 2022 at 12:03 PM

(UPDATE: A one-month extension has been approved for the Lake Park bridge contractor. This pushes the initial completion date back to Oct. 31, with a likely final completion date of Nov. 29.)

According to County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman, the restored Lake Park foot bridge over Ravine Road is expected to reopen soon.

The bridge is in Wasserman’s district and he also co-chair of the Board of Supervisors’ Parks and Culture Committee.

“Barring any setbacks, Parks has informed me that reopening is tentatively scheduled for September,” Wasserman said Friday. “Whenever the reopening occurs, I have pledged to hold a big celebration.”

In September 2020 the City of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission approved plans to restore the 1905 Alfred Clas-designed span.

Work began in 2021 thanks to a $2 million state grant.

The pedestrian bridge and Ravine Road below it were closed in 2014 after inspectors discovered cracks in the concrete span and soil erosion around the bridge’s supports. The bridge was later reopened to foot traffic, it was then fenced off again in 2016 while the County looked at options, including repairing and replacing the bridge.

Ravine Road has remained closed and discussions about its future continue. Last year, amid talk of closing it to motorized traffic, a petition was circulated urging the county to keep the road open to cars. That petition has more than 3,600 signatures.

Wasserman said it's an issue of great interest in the neighborhood.

"Discussion on the future of the path is still ongoing – and being watched closely by constituents," he told me. "I included a question regarding Ravine in my most recent district survey and received a record-breaking 760 responses.

"The majority of respondents (58 percent) preferred that it be reopened strictly as a pedestrian/bike path, while 18 percent wanted it reopened to all vehicles as it was before, and another 18 percent felt a hybrid option where the road is sometimes closed to traffic would be best."

Six percent had no opinion, he added.

Wahl Avenue lake vista restoration

lake view
(PHOTO: Jeff Bentoff)

This week, crews were seen on the south end of Lake Park trimming vegetation along the east side of Wahl Avenue. The work is part of a collaboration between Lake Park Friends and the Parks Department to restore the planned lake vista from atop the bluff.

“Historically, areas along the southern bluffs of Lake Park have been maintained as vista areas, as contemplated when the park was designed,” said Scott Hansen, who is organizing the project for Lake Park Friends.

The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, whose 200th birthday is being celebrated this year. Those celebrations include an exhibit currently on view at Villa Terrace.

lake views
(PHOTO: Jeff Bentoff)

“This is the only area of the park where visitors can enjoy the spectacular views of Lake Michigan,” Hansen added. “Due to budget constraints, the Parks Department has not maintained the vistas for years and they became so overgrown that many benches, installed so that visitors can enjoy the views, now sit in front of thickets of sumac and bramble.

“So the purpose of this project is to cut back the overgrown shrubbery – mainly sumac and some buckthorn – and restore the vista areas.”

The plan is to restore the view all the way along Wahl Avenue, Hansen said, to make it more closely resemble Olmsted’s original 1890s design.

“The project will not remove any of the large trees growing on the bluff and will not dig out the root systems of the vegetation being cut,” said Hansen. “The cut vegetation will grow back and will require continuing maintenance in future years. In the meantime, folks will be able to enjoy the view of Lake Michigan again.”

lake views
(PHOTO: Jeff Bentoff)

Wasserman saluted Lake Park Friends for its leadership on the project.

“Lake Park Friends has led the charge on this much-needed maintenance in an effort to help the Parks Department, which is drastically underfunded, as you and I know,” he said Friday.

“We are appreciative of the work LPF has done to restore such a great view of Lake Michigan.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.