Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Brown Deer Park’s Road Saved

County changes plan to eliminate signature loop roadway in popular park.

By - Mar 24th, 2017 12:35 pm
Existing road. Photo from Google.

Existing road. Photo from Google.

In May last year, Urban Milwaukee broke the story that the Milwaukee County Parks system was considering a plan to eliminate a 300-foot portion of Brown Deer Park‘s signature loop roadway. (Plenty of Horne 5 May 2016).

The proposal, I noted, “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.”

The move was intended to allow easier access between the clubhouse and a driving range on the course. “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 proposal included outside funding of $50,000 from Cardinal Stritch University for student practice at the links. Parks Director John Dargle said that the plans to expand the revenue-producing driving range had been under “conversations and discussions for many years.”

Yet few seemed to know about it. The move was a surprise to residents of the area, friends of the park, Supervisor Sequanna Taylor in whose district the park is located, and even the Chairman of the County Board.

Initial Brown Deer Park Driving Range Expansion Plans.

Initial Brown Deer Park Driving Range Expansion Plans.

Chairman Theo Lipscomb told Urban Milwaukee at the time, “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.”

A month later, Lipscomb had learned more about the project, and called a public meeting at the clubhouse that drew about 75 people. (Plenty of Horne 9 June 2016).

“Like most of you, I first heard of this in an on-line article,” Lipscomb said, referring to the Urban Milwaukee story. He then used his power to threaten cuts in parks funding under his control.

If a County Parks Department’s plan to close off a portion of a road in Brown Deer Park is not brought to a vote before the County Board, “that will be the end of the parks Amenity Fund,” he warned.

This is a classic bureaucratic move, and, as I noted, was “the first exercise of political muscle by Lipscomb since the new board, with its part-time status and diminished powers, was installed in March.”

The political uncertainty unleashed from the news reports caused the university to withdraw its plans and funds.

Today, nearly a year later, it appears that Lipscomb’s strategy worked.

According to a headline for a March 21st story by Jeff Rumage in North Shore Now, “Brown Deer Park loop won’t be disconnected for new driving range.”

The new solution.

The new solution.

The story cited a presentation to The Friends of Brown Deer Park on March 15th.

According to the article a commonsense solution, apparently never before considered by the county, was found:

To keep the circular roadway intact, the parks department has designed a realigned parkway that will run between the driving range and the putting green, allowing golfers to use the range installed for the Greater Milwaukee Open two decades ago. That range is rarely used because it requires the roadway in front of the range to be blockaded.

Golfers, in turn, will be able to hit balls another 100 yards further than before and the number of stations would increase from 21 to 24, including access to the PGA-quality range, hitherto inaccessible.

And park goers will continue to benefit from a continuous loop, along with a companion 10-foot wide bicycle and pedestrian path.

“I am proud to work with Supervisor Taylor along with the Parks Department to oversee implementation of our budget amendment which created and funded a new roadway re-alignment project,” Lipscomb says.

“The new design by the department reflects the compromise we proposed by realigning the road in order to accommodate the needs and desires of golfers and other park users. The park is for all of us and this project is the latest in a series of investments Milwaukee County is making to improve Brown Deer Park.”

Brown Deer Park

7 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: Brown Deer Park’s Road Saved”

  1. Reader says:

    I have differences with Lipscomb & the board but he, Taylor, the board and Urban MKE did a good job. The original proposal was “rammed down our throat” in a sneaky underhanded way. (Not sure if that’s physically possible but Frank Luntz has a way with words). Now we the people can maintain our park integrity and enhance our world class course. Frankly we took another step towards “Make Brown Deer Park great again”

    I still have doubts that the number of people using the driving range will expand exponentially as the supporters projected. I sure hope so. As far as Stritch rescinding their offer, not really. Their “offer” was to take the existing fees they were paying and diverting them to the road. We are where we were before but with so much more driving range revenue.

  2. Pete Mingle says:

    Hats off to Michael Horne and Urban Milwaukee! “Sunshine” is a great disinfectant when it comes to cleaning up governmental bad actions.

    Let this be a reminder to county officials that our parks were created for everyone, not just certain segments of the population. There are way too many ways to “privatize” the wonderful legacies handed down to us by the likes of the great Alfred Boerner and Charles Whitnall, as well as Frederick Law Olmsted and others. Keep all of our parks public!

    And keep hunting on those trails and digging up dirt, Michael Horne!

  3. Milwaukee Native says:

    Michael, could you explain the drawing a bit more? Are the Xs current roadways that will be vacated/rerouted?

    This sounds like a positive result of “creative crowdsourcing” and seeking a solution that addresses the needs and concerns of ALL park users (plus the historic park’s design integrity). It also reveals why we need engaged county supervisors representing citizens and looking out for the greater good, not for limited interests (golfers, in this case).

    RE: “Parks Director John Dargle said that the plans to expand the revenue-producing driving range had been under ‘conversations and discussions for many years.'” Those conversations may well have been happening, but mostly behind closed doors.

  4. Terry Kiley says:

    Thanks for this most excellent news. I can finally exhale.

  5. Gary says:

    Thoughtful citizenry in charge of making changes and upgrades to a golf facility located within Brown Deer Park would’ve avoided the controversy in the first place.

  6. Virginia Small says:

    One thing citizens could push for would be Park Advisory Councils for respective parks with citizen reps. Numerous top-ranked cities have them, including Chicago and Seattle. Boston also has a citizen review-board process for making changes, especially for historic parks.


  7. Carl says:

    Thank you for pushing to preserve the loop! I run it a couple times a week, weather permitting. Last weekend I jogged into the park from Calumet and found the road torn out so construction has begun. Good to know that a compromise was reached. I support the golf course as well.

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