Park People First Quarter 2016 Newsletter
Executive Director's View
by Jim Goulee
Long before the Calatrava became the iconic symbol for our community, the Mitchell Park Conservatory or Domes as we affectionately call it was the most noteworthy architectural symbol that described Milwaukee as a forward thinking community. Much like the Gateway Arch in St. Louis or the Guggenheim in New York it served as a beacon to tourists and put Milwaukee on the map.
Unfortunately, today it serves as a much different kind of symbol. As Cheri Briscoe, a board member of the Park People, recently stated, "it serves today as the canary in the mine". This is an allusion to caged canaries that miners many years ago would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide collected in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.
The Domes, as we are all aware, are in need of significant repair or replacement. Due to years of deferred maintenance and potential obsolescence they bring to light the general state of our parks. Just like the canary analogy, the Domes situation is a harbinger of a much larger problem that has been confronting our policy makers for years: deferred maintenance.
It has been estimated that the amount of deferred maintenance in our Park System is somewhere between 200 and 300 million dollars. How do we, as a community, address this problem?
To think that we can do it through the County's Capital budget is naive. Just yesterday I read of the need to replace the County's Safety Building which too has potentially serious structural deficits. The cost is projected to be 184 million dollars. That is just one of a myriad of deserving and needed capital projects in other County Departments that will continue to push our parks' needs further down the list.
It seems that if we, as a community, truly value our parks a more expedient solution is needed. Is it time for a slight increase in the County Sales and Use tax? In 2008 the voters of Milwaukee County actually expressed their desire to do just that in a non-binding, advisory referendum. We said in clear terms that we valued our parks and were willing to pay more in taxes to keep them the pride of our community.
Unfortunately, our State Legislators did not heed the call and allow us to reinvest in our parks through an increase in the sales tax.
We have a choice. Do we continue to demand that our State Legislators allow us a binding referendum that would enable a sales tax increase for the betterment of our parks, or do we just accept that our parks will continue to suffer from financial neglect? If we choose option two I guess we could just invest in another canary.
2016 Oak Leaf Discovery Tour Coming Soon
Work is well on its way for the 2016 Oak Leaf Discovery Tour. Look for changes and NEW CHALLENGES in this, the 5th year of the Tour.
We have decided to shake things up a little this year and hopefully make it much more interesting! All the locations will be "Keyword" locations. We are eliminating the stamping stations we have employed for the last four years so all locations will be outside and a little more challenging to find. We also will introduce some new locations that may not be quite as bicycle friendly for getting there. We want to encourage more hikers to join the adventures and bikers to occasionally take a little break from their bikes. Actually, some people may prefer to drive to some of the locations to do their exploring while hiking.
POINTS OF INTEREST will be the focus of our Keywords
The Passport pages where you find each keyword entry
box will also include a QR code that can be used
with a smartphone to whisk you to a web page where
you will find a map showing the approximate location
of the keyword plus information about some of the
history or cultural importance of that site.
It will be an
opportunity to learn as you explore.