Dave Reid
Eyes on Milwaukee

The Swings are Back — and Better than Before

Guerrilla urbanism triumphs, as “magical” swings re-installed under Holton Avenue Bridge.

By - Jul 23rd, 2014 06:04 pm
Seconds after the press conference children take to the swings. Photo by Dave Reid.

Seconds after the press conference children take to the swings. Photo by Dave Reid.

This is a sweet story of urban activism.

In September 2012 a group known as beintween, led by Keith Hayes, hung swings from the Holton Viaduct with the hope of bringing activity to the area under the bridge. They succeeded, as area residents and even the mayor’s daughters found the swings a fun urban amenity. But by October 2013 all the swings had been removed, some by the city due to safety concerns and some by Hayes’ group, unhappy that the city was removing them. This could have been the end of Milwaukee’s burgeoning ‘guerrilla urbanism’ movement (when citizens take it upon themselves to fix an urban problem without approval from the municipality), but the story didn’t end there.

Instead the city began working with Hayes, artists, stakeholders including Julilly Kohler and the area business improvement district to bring the swings back, with some improvements. The city added swings for toddlers, added a handicap accessible swing, known as “Aunt Ada,” replaced the gravel with a recycled tire fill that is soft and squishy to the touch, and improved the swing’s connections to the bridge to insure safety.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held today to announce the new swings and thank those that helped remake what is unofficially called “Swing Park.”

As Ghassan Korban, Commissioner of the Department of Public Works, put it: “We delivered on the wants of the neighborhood.”

The swings and this new public place, “celebrate creativity and persistence of our citizens,” proclaimed Mayor Tom Barrett, adding in jest that “we’re not ready to call it the Keith Hayes tire park.”  He explained that after the city removed the swings one thing was clear: “The people liked them and wanted them back.  And the Department of Public Works responded.”

“It is very hard to plan for this kind of magic,” Ald. Nik Kovac proclaimed, but “fortunately, the mayor’s daughters found the park [before the city removed the swings] first,” he joked.

“It was these wonderful guerrillas,” said Julilly Kohler as she thanked Hayes, Willie Fields, and many more that made the park happen.

“Really thankful I didn’t go to jail,” kidded Hayes, given that his initial installation of the swings lacked city approval. He thanked NEWaukee, Fields (the “unofficial park ranger,” Hayes said) and Sara Daleiden, of MKE<>LAX.

Korban also praised Daleiden, for being the “calmer” when the project waters got rough. He ended the ceremony with a call to residents: “Come to us with ideas.”

Bike Bits

  • Just in time for the Riverwest 24 N. Humboldt Ave. has been resurfaced from just north of E. North Ave. to E. Keefe Ave. After today’s ribbon cutting, DPW Commissioner Korban told Urban Milwaukee that the implementation of green lanes in Milwaukee is “imminent.” Korban clarified saying, “We will be putting them on Humboldt in a limited way.”
  • Bike-sharing has yet to rollout in Milwaukee, but Midwest BikeShare will give an update on the project at a press conference scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, August 6th at Red Arrow Park.
  • And just a heads up to Riverwest 24 riders, a B-cycle will be on the course again this year.

Photo Gallery of the Ribbon Cutting

Categories: Eyes on Milwaukee

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