Abele Quietly Changes Brown Deer Park
Circular road through park becomes dead end to create golf driving range.
Fore! A driving range in Brown Deer Park will slice through an existing mile-plus circular roadway, cutting about 300 feet out of the circuit that rings the 362-acre, 1929 masterpiece designed by Alfred C. Boerner. No longer will bicyclists, rollerbladers and motorists be able to enjoy the circuit, an integral part of the park’s design. Instead, travellers will be faced with dead-end signs at two places of what will soon become a horseshoe-shaped road if the public does not stop this proposal.
The roadway will be severed at its southern end to allow the expansion of a driving range at the county golf course, a significant revenue generator, and a former site of PGA-sanctioned tournaments.
The golf course already has a perfectly fine driving range, built to PGA specifications two decades ago, but…”it’s not used because it is located just on the other side of [the] roadway. Cars and walkers have become accustomed to using the roadway, and even large barriers and signs do not dissuade them from using the path while golf balls whiz over their heads during special tournaments,” we learn from an article in Brown Deer NOW! of March 31st, the only coverage the story has had. “The driving range is an embarrassment,” Milwaukee County Parks Director John Dargle told the publication.
“This is a hands-down, No. 1 priority for long-term customer satisfaction and revenue — more than anything else that could happen at Brown Deer,” said Brown Deer Golf Pro Andrew Barrett.
The customers Barrett wants to satisfy are those who pay to golf in the park, the third-largest in the Milwaukee County Parks System.
The offensive roadway, however, has always been free to park visitors. Its circular design is integral to the park as a whole and derives directly from the precepts of Frederick Law Olmsted, and Charles B. Whitnall, the driving force behind the Milwaukee County Parks System. Was there no other way to create the desired driving range?
Cutting off the circular roadway is a significant change to the traffic pattern of the park, and of the area as well. No longer will vehicles be able to enter at Range Line Road to head west in an area where intersections that actually lead somewhere are few and far between. An additional four minutes would be added to a ride through the park for those headed from Range Line Road to Teutonia Avenue and the pleasant comforts of the Thirsty Fox Tavern.
Where Were the Hearings?
The matter was brought to my attention by a relative who lives on Range Line Road and who happened upon the story after noticing some activity at the park.
I checked and found no mention of the project on the county park website. Nor did I see it mentioned in the capital budget of the parks. There was a hearing on March 29 that discussed the change, but there was scant mention of the road turning into a dead end, with an emphasis on how this will increase safety for golfers and pedestrians by reducing the area shared by both types of traffic. I can’t help thinking there should be more discussion of a plan to close off an 80-year-old road that has well and freely served a community for so long.
I contacted the office of the county executive on April 25th for more information. Work is to begin this month on the $100,000 project, half of which is to be financed by Cardinal Stritch University — why so little discussion of this?
Abele Administration Response
The only response I received was this, on the next day: “Sorry I’m just getting to a response here – was out of the office most of yesterday. I will work on getting this info together for you.”
Eight days later and I have heard nothing.
A Response from the Board Chairman
Meanwhile, over the past few days the area has been staked, and earth-moving equipment has been spotted at the site. I wondered if the County Board had been involved with this major change to an urban greenway, so I contacted Board Chair Theo Lipscomb. His district nearly entirely circles the park, which itself has no residents. The park itself is in the 2nd Supervisory district of Sequanna Taylor, and she’s only been in office for a couple of weeks.
I wrote: “The circular drive at Brown Deer Park, an integral feature of Albert Boerner’s plan, is being severed to expand a golf range. I saw no mention of this in budget, work proposed or public hearing notices. … Did you support this Abele proposal?”
Lipscomb, who is rarely an ally of Abele, sent this response: “A public hearing is not required for each project. However I would definitely say that this one wasn’t presented in detail at the time that money was appropriated. Not sure there’s anything I’ll be able to do at this stage, but I’d certainly like to learn more.”