Op Ed

Parks Should Be Free For All People

Why Abele’s pay-to-park-plan for county parks should be opposed.

By - Jan 29th, 2018 12:46 pm
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Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Dan Sebring

Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Dan Sebring

Frederick Law Olmsted, one of Milwaukee County Parks’ great architects, believed strongly that parks should be open to all. While designing New York’s famous Central Park, Olmsted said the park “was intended to furnish healthy recreation for the poor and the rich, the young and the old, the vicious and the virtuous…this social mixing was not just an accident, but a benefit…you may often see vast numbers of persons brought closely together.”

New York’s Central Park and Milwaukee’s Lake Park share a similar economic reality:  they are both located near some of the greatest concentration of wealth in their respective cities. Olmsted was ahead of his time with his public park designs when he ensured that everyone had equal access to these treasures. We need look no further than his design for the magical Lake Park, which foresaw a future need to secure a front seat to beautiful Lake Michigan for all Milwaukee residents.

Mr. Olmsted would be infuriated to learn that Milwaukee County Executives like Chris Abele, and before him Scott Walker, both proposed pay-to-park schemes in our public parks, concentrated at lakefront parks. While both Walker and Abele see paid parking in public parks as a revenue opportunity, we see this gimmick as a financial obstacle for all people to enjoy our public parks. Whether these fees impact a mother taking her child to a playground, an older adult attending a senior center, or a golfer trying to focus on improving their swing instead of remembering to plug a meter, the proposal is wrong for Milwaukee County.

Families from across Milwaukee County and beyond seek relief from every day stresses of city life in our parks, especially during our short but hot summers, as architects like Olmsted planned for. It’s easy to lose track of time when you are at a family cookout or swimming at the beach, and the penalty for this enjoyment would be a parking ticket costing you many times the hourly rate for parking. Do we really soak the taxpayers like this, and feed the traumatic cycle of parking tickets, license revocation, and other unintended consequences?

The County Board blocked the Walker pay-to-park plan years ago. We’re currently working to stop the pay-to-park plan County Executive Abele included in the budget. First we required more information about the proposal so the public could better understand Abele’s proposal, then increased transparency by requiring public reports and a real public hearing, where everyone’s voice can be heard. So what’s next?

We have heard from supporters of the idea that rejection of this mistaken plan will result in a loss of questionable revenue for our parks. But the county has not collected a dime from this scheme, and we haven’t seen hard numbers proving the revenue is there. In our opinion, you cannot put a price tag on the benefit our community receives from free, open and accessible public parks.

Let’s work together to secure dedicated funding for our parks. We are proud to author a moratorium on paid parking in our parks so that no County Executive – current or future – can ever use our precious emerald necklace as a revenue-generating paid parking endeavor. We want to protect and preserve our parks for everyone to enjoy for free.

Marina Dimitrijevic, Milwaukee County Supervisor District 4
Dan Sebring, Milwaukee County Supervisor District 11

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

9 thoughts on “Op Ed: Parks Should Be Free For All People”

  1. oohot dog says:

    A good alternative would be to restrict parking on Lincoln Memorial Drive to 2 hours. The $40 tickets should generate more income than parking meter fees.

    Olmsted included no parking lots in his park plans. It appears he wanted people to walk, bike or use public transport.

    Finally, I recall it was Black who wanted to charge parking fees and also fees for people camping out overnight for the 4th. Both ideas were shot down by Walker.

  2. Sam says:

    “Mr. Olmsted would be infuriated to learn that Milwaukee County Executives like Chris Abele, and before him Scott Walker, both proposed pay-to-park schemes in our public parks, concentrated at lakefront parks.”

    I think Mr. Olmsted would more infuriated at the sorry state of the park system. Dedicated funding is necessary. Collectively, the city, county, and an alliance of other municipal governments across the state should band together to demand the state restore shared revenue. In the meantime, the county board should come up with ideas on how to raise revenue within their power.

  3. rambleon says:

    Sad that the city would even consider these parking fees for a park system that has been a safe-haven sanctuary for all people in all circumstances for decades. Imagine a poor, retired artist who wants to visit a park and paint for three or four hours a day. That’s $30 or $40 a week? Ridiculous. The parks are for all people, rich and poor. PLEASE, everyone, call out and resist this absurd solution in every channel you can think of! The city can find alternatives. More beer garden ideas, and food or fun options, more in the way of kite parks, food carts, games, art, walking and bike tours etc. GET CREATIVE! But don’t punish folks for wanting to go to the park! Crazy.

  4. Virginia says:

    In Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1892 design for Lake Park, he specifically included a Shore Drive along the lakefront, which eventually expanded into what is now Lincoln Memorial Drive. He also specified an east-west connecting road from lakefront road to what is now Lake Drive (which became Ravine Road). He believed that all types of transportation through parks was essential and planned for their enjoyment from varied perspectives, including vehicles.

    Olmsted also stressed to Milwaukee officials that they should bring public transportation directly to the parks he designed here. His efforts played a role in bringing the streetcar to Washington and Lake parks. The latter had a station at what is now the end of Locust Street at Lake Drive.

    Starting with Central Park, Olmsted made the case that commerce should be allowed in parks only to the extent that it enhanced enjoyment of that park. Having been a prominent abolitionist (and early reporter in the South for the New York Times), he believed that parks were an important way to foster democracy, social justice and public health.

  5. Mike says:

    Gross. Way too many ugly parking lot in our parks. Never should have paved over our natural resources.

  6. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Typical leftie response: Raise taxes. If Doyle was still in office our property taxes would be up 35%

  7. tbonemke says:

    rambleon brings up a good point. There are beer gardens in many of our parks now. What is that revenue being used for? Put it back into our parks. Beer gardens in Milwaukee practically print money (if the lines at Estabrook are any indication). But I’m sure the politicians are putting this money in the “general fund” and then using it for all their other terrible ideas.

    @Wisconsin Conservative Digest: Nice job diverting attention away from the fact that you and your kind enjoy restricting public resources to the wealthy and their cronies. Keep up the great job oppressing the downtrodden and less fortunate.

  8. EricS says:

    Characterizing this as a fee to go to a park is absurd. This would be a fee to store your personal vehicle at a park. This is not a fee to visit a park. Those who walk or bike to a park would not pay any fees; those who take the bus to a park would pay the same as now – whatever their bus fare is; those who drive and park in a park parking lot would (possibly) pay a parking fee. Seems like a reasonable idea to me. I would much rather have the parks budget be spent on a playground (for instance) than a parking lot.

  9. John K Griffith says:

    Yes, free for everyone ,but what about accesability? Lake Dr. has no bus service. Park map showing connections to transit system & benches (a.k.a. rest stops for senior & disabled hikers) are just a few items that need to be addressed as well.

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