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Dozens of Milwaukee County Parks Vulnerable to Sale

43 parks across Milwaukee County could be sold at any time, as part of a state budget decision involving the highly-anticipated Bucks arena deal.

That provision gave Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele the power to sell Park East for a dollar, providing a future home for the NBA team.

It also gave Abele additional power over 43 separate parks in Milwaukee County, including Red Arrow Park, Cathedral Square, and Lake Park. Abele sits on a 3 person committee, of which two would need to approve a county land sale. 

       "These parks may lack the zoning that would protect them from sale," says County Board Supervisor Theodore Lipscomb. "It casts some real doubt on a number of very significant parks throughout Milwaukee County." 

None of the parks listed in a document provided by the County Parks Department are technically zoned as "parkland", despite some being used as parks for decades. Lipscomb says the apparent oversight should raise concerns.

      "It's subject to all the municipalities taking action, and this could take weeks, months, or even a year to solve this. There's no assurance that [Abele] wouldn't undertake a transaction in that time on 1 or more of these parks. 

But Abele says he has no plans to sell any of the properties, in fact, quite the opposite. Abele's office provided CBS58 with a series of letters dated January 25th, in which Abele urges local leaders to change municipal zoning designations "as soon as practicable." Those letters include specific properties for 12 municipalities that could be at risk in future land sales. 

Those letters were issued to leaders from Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Franklin, South Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Fox Point, Greendale, Whitefish Bay, Bayside, Brown Deer, St. Francis, and Glendale. Only local administrations can change municipal zoning. 

Abele's office also issued the following statement to CBS58. 

The county executive has spent five years catching up on deferred maintenance in Parks, added more than 150 acres to parkland, and has been a committed personal supporter of environmental groups which preserve the natural environment for years. He has no current or future plans to sell parkland and in fact has already requested that municipal leaders and their respective legislative bodies take action to rezone the land in question.

The county executive is glad that the County Board supports his action on this issue, and hopes that they will continue to partner with him on preserving our environment. Like all of the environmental groups, the City of Milwaukee, the Village of Shorewood, and MMSD, Abele favors removal of the Estabrook Dam and restoring the river to its natural flow. That differs greatly from Chairman Lipscomb's support for expensively rebuilding the Dam.

Lipscomb says he'll remain concerned until all 12 municipalities have re-zoned the properties as parkland.  

      "No other county executive in the state has this power, and he shouldn't have it either," he says. "And it's not just about him. No one person should have that kind of authority." 

Full list of impacted properties (currently not zoned as parkland): 

Milwaukee

  • Cathedral Square
  • Mitchell Boulevard
  • Pere Marquette
  • Red Arrow Park
  • Rover West
  • Servite Park Preserve
  • Zeidler Union Square
  • Juneau Park
  • Armour Park
  • Baran Park
  • Joseph Lichter Park
  • Kohl Park
  • Lake Park
  • Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum
  • Riverside Park
  • Wilson Recreation Center
  • Melody Preserve
  • Mitchell Airport Park

Wauwatosa

  • Milwaukee County Grounds Park
  • Chippewa Park

City of Franklin 

  • St. Martins
  • Whitnall Park
  • Franklin Park
  • Oakwood Golf Course
  • Grobschmidt Park
  • Southwood Glen
  • Froemming Park
  • Milwaukee County Sports Complex

City of South Milwaukee

  • Grant Park
  • Rawson Park

Oak Creek

  • Runway Dog Park
  • Falk Park

Village of Fox Point

  • Doctors Park

Village of Greendale

  • Grobschmidt Park
  • Scout Lake

Village of Whitefish Bay

  • Big Bay Park
  • Estabrook Park

Village of Bayside

  • Doctors Park

Village of Brown Deer

  • AC Hanson Park
  • Algonquin Park
  • Brown Deer Park

St. Francis

  • Bay View Park
  • Greene Park
  • Sheridan Park

Glendale

  • Kletzsch Park
  • Lincoln Park

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