Graham Kilmer
MKE County

A ‘Maptacular’ Idea to Fund Parks

New fund for parks from merchandise sold, including unique maps of parks.

By - Nov 27th, 2018 02:08 pm
Washington Park. Map designed by Lauren Marvell.

Washington Park. Map designed by Lauren Marvell.

Milwaukee County officially launched an initiative Monday to generate revenue for the parks system through merchandising and a new partnership with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation (GMF).

It works like this: the GMF will steward a fund for the county that comes from donations to the parks and proceeds from merchandise the county will sell, including unusual new maps of the parks. The funds generated will be used for parks revenue in the future.

“This is a way that we’re able to leverage and expand and do projects that we wouldn’t able to do under tax levy,” said county parks director Guy Smith.

As the county faces an increasingly challenging revenue outlook it is looking for creative ways to build new revenue sources. This new initiative will funnel private capital through merchandising, but also importantly, solicit donors and philanthropists to help support the parks system. Donors can even choose to fund specific aspects of park system, like bike trails or playgrounds.

The online portal for donations, along with merchandise, can be found at The merchandise includes posters, stickers, t-shirts and dog outfits.

“The way our state funds local government is sub-optimum, that’s my politically safe way of putting it,” County Executive Chris Abele said. “But until it changes we need to do everything we can.”

The privatization of some parks services has been a sticking point for many county residents passionate about parks. In particular, a proposal last year to institute paid parking at county parks was met with nothing short of an uproar. That, along with the unpopular proposal to increase the wheel tax, are examples of what Abele calls a “least worst idea.”

This one, however, is not that. The fund should provide a future source of revenue, and because it is managed by a private foundation, the money can’t be siphoned off for other projects come budget season.

Presenting “Maptacular”

This new fund and merchandising venture is being launched with “Maptacular” project. Milwaukee County commissioned a number of local artists to create new, creative maps of various parks. These maps will be used throughout the county, and can be purchased as posters.

Each map is by a different artist, and as such has a unique style and aesthetic.

Linda Bleck was commissioned to recreate the map for Whitnall Park. Her map features a number of landmarks and features of the park that were new to her, and will likely be a surprise to other Milwaukee residents. She added, for those that don’t know, that Whitnall Park is just as colorful in person as it appears in her map.

Another artist, Lauren Marvell, designed Washington Park’s map. And in her design, she filled the park with her friends, doing what they enjoy in real life.

Their prints can be purchased on the “Parks for Good” website alongside the other merchandise.


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One thought on “MKE County: A ‘Maptacular’ Idea to Fund Parks”

  1. Barbara Richards says:

    A good way forward, Though I think if those who want to drive to parks would be asked to pay it forward to those who arrive by bus and shuttle (through their WIC or SNAP card) we could create funding and equity while reducing the amount of cars driving about and placing our human existence on this planet in peril. A wheel tax would help also as well as increased fees for downtown parking that would encourage the use of public transit – which would increase ridership and a bit of funding. Downtown business need to offer free bus passes to employees as a benefit. And more!!! Did anyone notice that we have less than twelve years to upend our current SOP!!!!????

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