Friends Of Lakeshore State Park
Op Ed

Why Lakeshore State Park Needs Visitor Center

It will educate the public and provide financial support to sustain the park.

By - Sep 25th, 2018 02:10 pm
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Visitor and Education Center on Lakeshore State Park. Rendering by The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.

Visitor and Education Center on Lakeshore State Park. Rendering by The Kubala Washatko Architects, Inc.

As the Board of Directors for the Friends of Lakeshore State Park, the 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Wisconsin’s only urban and one of the few free state parks, we wish to share our passion for establishing a Visitor and Education Center at the park. The Friends appreciate Urban Milwaukee’s recognition of the beauty and tranquility that the park provides. Through the Visitor and Education Center, we wish to share that experience and encourage all to come to the park, whether by walking, boating, bicycling or via bus, as a matter of equity. A Visitor and Education Center will provide shelter from the storm, shade in the heat and warmth in the cold, for anyone who wishes to experience the 22 acre park, with its thirteen natural prairies, for an excursion longer than a cycling, jogging or walking pass through. In a city where sadly many young children have yet to see the lakefront, the Friends aim to create a place where people of all ages and backgrounds can access our most vital natural resource – Lake Michigan, without facing economic or social barriers.

Fresh water Education by DNR Employee. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Lakeshare State Park.

Fresh water Education by DNR Employee. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Lakeshare State Park.

The publicly-vetted master plan for the state park presented in 2007 called for facilities to promote public programming and amenities for boaters. Lakeshore State Park serves as the gateway to the Wisconsin Park System, however, has few methods to communicate with the public about the gem of our parks. As part of its educational mission, in 2017, Park staff delivered over 1,800 total contact hours of education to 8,500 participants through 95 educational events that address Next Generation Science Standards. Participants came from nonprofit organizations, K-12 schools, universities, summer programs and volunteer groups. Without shelter or restrooms, these tours are often interrupted due to the call of nature; additionally, in a county with nearly 1 million people, 240,000 of whom are 18 years or under, we can do better to introduce our youth to the scientific exploration through the wonders of Lakeshore State Park. The Visitor and Education Center facilitates this instruction.

Tom Kroeger of the DNR teaching a group of children. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Lakeshore State Park.

Tom Kroeger of the DNR teaching a group of children. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Lakeshore State Park.

State parks are expected to be self-sustaining; as a free state park, Lakeshore State Park has few opportunities to generate revenue. The 20 boat slips available now, for vessels up to 60 feet, are underutilized due to the lack of amenities for boaters. Through a Visitor and Education Center, the Friends wish to provide an opportunity for the park to earn revenue from boaters, through limited facility rentals, and Friends concessions. Currently, the park has few earned revenue opportunities.

The boat slips at Lakeshore State Park. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Lakeshore State Park.

The boat slips at Lakeshore State Park. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Lakeshore State Park.

Acknowledging the park’s coveted position on the lakefront, and the serenity of the setting, the Friends commissioned the Kubala Washatko Architects (TKWA), one of the foremost designers creating environmentally conscious buildings for environmental missions, to envision the Visitor and Education Center. The stunning, sleek and modest facility with a 2500 square foot impression will promote unimpeded views of the park’s prairies and shoreline. By attempting the Living Building Challenge, the Visitor and Education Center will advance environmental building practices and serve as a teaching tool for sustainability. Much as the Calatrava design for the Milwaukee Art Museum brought international attention to Milwaukee over a decade ago, Lakeshore State Park’s Visitor and Education Center can again put Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline on the radar.

Upon reviewing the designs for the Visitor and Education Center, Dean Robert Greenstreet, UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning, said this, “As the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning worked on the project at the early stages, I am aware of the challenges of the building program… You have skillfully crafted a very engaging, sustainable solution which provides a powerful enhancement to the park…. It is a jewel of a building and I look forward to seeing it under construction.”

Friends of Lakeshore State Park, an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting Lakeshore State Park for the entire community to enjoy.

Categories: Op-Ed, Real Estate

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