Milwaukee County executives sign funding bill to restore deadly McKinley Beach

NOW: Milwaukee County executives sign funding bill to restore deadly McKinley Beach

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The wheels are now in motion to repair and restore McKinley Beach, which has been closed for two summers because of unsafe conditions.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley signed legislation Wednesday, July 13 that officially funds the project.

The metal barriers have been up for more than a year after the beach was shut down in the wake of four drownings in 2020. But soon they'll come down, and crews will begin a $712,000 project to restore the beach to its original, safer design.

At a signing ceremony Wednesday, Crowley said, "All of our parks, our beaches, and trails should be safe and open to all our residents no matter what zip code they come from."

It's literally a life and death decision.

County officials call McKinley Beach one of the most family-friendly beaches in the area, but several drownings in recent years forced them to shut it down.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman has championed the restoration project in recent months. He said, "We should be out there in the water, we should have families on the water, in a safe environment. And this will do it."

Engineers extensively studied the water currents, barriers and wind conditions. They found water and wind erosion moved a significant amount of sand around and created an environment that produced rip currents.

Now a return to the original 1989 design will create much safer conditions.

Wasserman said, "The key thing is let's take down these fences, and let's restore the beaches to the citizens of Milwaukee.

But some citizens have been impacted more than others.

Crowley said, "This is where a majority of African Americans and people of color used to come to enjoy."

And so those families are losing more by the closure. Crowley continued, "Making sure this is no longer a danger, is critical in making sure we achieve equity all across Milwaukee County.

The upcoming restoration is expected to create safe conditions for the next 15-20 years, but Crowley said, "Our parks funding is not sustainable."

Without maintenance, the beach will again erode back to dangerous conditions.

Wasserman said, "We will hopefully maintain it, but as the County Executive said, we are short on money. I mean we're in terrible, dire shape."

The county is looking at several ways to increase revenue for this project and others.

This beach restoration starts now with a design phase and then construction. The county is hoping to reopen the beach next summer.

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