With parks and trails in high-demand, a new Love Your Parks campaign is aiming to rally community support around much-needed funding for Milwaukee County’s parks.
Access to parks, trails and open spaces have become more important than ever during this time as Milwaukee County struggles from the impacts of COVID-19, racial inequities, and the impacts of years of budget cuts. The new Love Your Parks Campaign, launching today, provides new ways for the community to help the parks they love through volunteering, donating, and sharing stories of why parks are essential to them.
"Parks and trails have proven themselves to be critical to life in Milwaukee County. They strengthen our community, create jobs, improve our health and provide benefits for every single resident," Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said. "It’s essential we think boldly and find long-term solutions for funding parks, as they are vital to advancing the County’s vision that... By achieving racial equity, Milwaukee is the healthiest county in Wisconsin."
Milwaukeeans have flocked to parks and trails during the COVID pandemic to get fresh air, exercise or relieve stress and anxiety; and while tee-sheets at golf courses are full and beer gardens are reopening, the park system is still facing a $10 million budget shortfall due to the loss of revenue from services including rentals, special event permits and visitor admissions.
"Taxpayers each contribute just thirty cents a year per park, so we rely on fees from services to make up the remainder of our budget," says Guy Smith, Executive Director of Milwaukee County Parks. "This summer, the pandemic has forced us to close or delay opening of a lot of those revenue generating services. Drastic cuts to spending and seasonal staffing are having direct impacts on park maintenance."
"We’ve heard from a lot of residents who are concerned about seeing longer grass, closed facilities and fewer trash pick-ups, and they’re asking how they can help. We’re launching the Love Your Parks campaign to provide options for anyone who wants to volunteer, donate or simply, give their parks some love."
Volunteer options include small group projects; becoming a ‘park steward’ at a specific park to help clean up or becoming a ‘micro-volunteer’ - an anytime, anywhere effort to help with trash clean-up.
The Milwaukee Parks Foundation, formed last fall, is accepting donations for Parks from individuals or businesses, and a portion of the sales from four-packs of a new ParkLife beer, will also be donated to the Foundation. The honey lager, which features a limited-edition can design inspired by Grant Park, was created in collaboration with Sprecher Brewery and Beer Capitol. The cans are available now in local stores, as well as parks beer gardens and golf courses.
"We are so excited to support the launch of the Love Your Parks campaign today," said Milwaukee Parks Foundation Chair, Tami Garrison. "We echo the Love Your Parks community calls to action and are committed to fostering dynamic connections through our land and community, expanding what is possible in our neighborhoods, and engaging residents in supporting a safe and vibrant parks system that benefits all."
Visitors to loveyourparksmke.com can also submit videos or stories about why parks are essential to them, get the facts about parks funding and staffing, and access a new Parks Explorer app, which includes interactive maps and information on all 158 parks in the Milwaukee County Park System. Details of the campaign, and sign up forms for volunteering, are available at loveyourparksmke.com.
Love Your Parks Campaign Fast Facts
- The Milwaukee Parks Foundation, launched last fall, is accepting donations from individuals, businesses and organizations.
- The Parks’ trail system laid end-to-end would stretch all the way to Green Bay!
- The land managed by Parks is the equivalent of 7,500 Lambeau Fields in size.
- At 15,000+ acres of land, Parks is the largest landowner in the county.
- The entire park system contains roughly the same amount of land as 50 Six Flag Great America’s – while a Six Flags season ticket can cost $140, an average of just $50 in property taxes per household goes to parks each year.
- Hundreds of small businesses, non-profits and community organizations rely on Milwaukee County Parks to operate!