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Fundraising to Start Soon for Planned Visitor Center at Lakeshore State Park

A group dedicated to Lakeshore State Park in Milwaukee is about to start a big fundraising effort in the hopes of fulfilling a legacy. If the group is successful, it would mean a significant change at the only urban state park in Wisconsin.

"When you're looking to the east and see the spectacular views of Lake Michigan, you'd never think or realize that just to the west is a totally different view of the skyline in an urban setting,” Bob Gosse, President of the non-profit group Friends of Lakeshore State Park, said while talking about one of the main reasons people enjoy walking and biking on the land. 

The views at Lakeshore State Park are some of the best in Milwaukee, but the park does have its challenges.

"People love the park, but it's windy out there a lot of the time. It's cold. There's no shelter from the sun. There's no water. There are no bathrooms so we tend to be a pass-through park,” Tom Kroeger, Manager of Lakeshore State Park explained.

It’s a pass-through spot for now, but not in the future if Friends of Lakeshore State Park is successful. The non-profit will soon start a fundraising effort to build a visitor and education center on the north end of the park.

"The building has a ship shape to it,” Gosse said as he pointed out the proposed location.

The center was in the Department of Natural Resource's master plan from the start, but due to a lack of state funding is still on paper.

"There are a lot of parks out there, a lot of demands. It all comes down to prioritization,” Kroeger said.

Priorities for the center include on-site offices for staff, an education space for school and community groups, and public restrooms.

"If a kid has to go to the bathroom right now, he (or she) has to walk to one of the porta-potties or Discovery World. That's difficult,” Kroeger said.

The building would also be a bonus for boaters. The boat slips at the park are underutilized right now, but if boaters had access to restrooms and showers 24 hours a day that could change.

"They tell us once we get these amenities, we're going to be jammed,” Kroeger said.

Another important aspect of the plan is the look of the center. The group has placed a high importance on making sure the building blends into its surroundings.

"The building uses natural materials. It uses a lot of glass. So even when you're in the building, you feel like you're outside the building. If you're looking at the building, you can see through the building,” Gosse explained.

The group's goal is aggressive, but the members are determined. They want groundbreaking in 2018.

"This building is the final crown. It’s the final piece that's really going to turn this park around,” Kroeger said.

The estimated cost of the center and an outdoor plaza area is $5 million. The group is looking for a lead donor right now-- a company, group, or individual who can donate a substantial amount of money. Once a lead donor is secured, the group will start a public fundraising effort.

In the meantime, you can support the conservation and education programs at the park by visiting Friends of Lakeshore State Park.

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