Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Crowley Signs McKinley Beach Funding

Project will restore beach to original swimming depths to reduce dangerous riptides.

By - Jul 14th, 2022 10:15 am
Photo by Jeramey Jannene taken August 7th, 2011 all rights reserved.

Photo by Jeramey Jannene taken August 7th, 2011.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley signed a resolution Wednesday funding the restoration of McKinley Beach to reduce the dangerous water conditions after three people drowned at the beach in 2020.

“Today’s bill signing is extremely important, because it’s taking steps forward to reopen this beach and bringing it back to its original design with some additional safety measures,” Crowley said.

The resolution, passed by the board in June, provides $712,000 for the restoration of the beach to its original design and depth when it was built in the late 1980s to reduce the occurrence of dangerous riptides.

Sup. Sheldon Wasserman, who represents the area and authored the legislation funding the repairs, said the county executive’s signature will “put into motion a great act” which is the eventual reopening of the beach.

The county commissioned a study of the water conditions at the beach following the drownings in 2020. It found that record high water levels in 2020 exacerbated the conditions at the beach, which had worsened due to erosion over the years, producing structural rip currents along breakwaters on the northern and southern ends of the beach.

The restoration project will add sand to the beach until the average water depth between the breakwaters is approximately two feet. In 2020, when lake levels were high, the average depth between the breakwaters was approximately six feet.

“This is a great day for Milwaukee County parks and our beaches,” Crowley said. “But when we look at these important neighborhood amenities It is clear that we need more resources to manage them effectively, and to keep them accessible to the public.”

The county has faced declining shared revenue from the state for more than a decade, creating a widening gulf between the county’s funds and the cost to continue government. This has produced an annual structural deficit that is projected to leave the county short approximately $90 million over the next five years.

To illustrate the effect that declining revenues have had on the parks department, Crowley noted that in the late 1980s, around the time McKinley Beach was built, the parks department had well over 1,000 employees and today it has less than 400, but the assets and amenities that need looking after are roughly the same.

“Our parks funding is not sustainable,” Crowley said, explaining that the county doesn’t have enough funding to simply maintain the parks system, let alone make needed improvements and repairs.

Jim Tarantino, interim deputy director of Milwaukee County Parks, said the legislation’s signing means the department can begin soliciting proposal from contractors for the project. Funding for the repairs was passed quickly by the board with hopes that the beach will be restored and open by 2024.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

One thought on “MKE County: Crowley Signs McKinley Beach Funding”

  1. 45 years in the City says:

    I recall the current configuration was constructed in the early 90s to combat sand erosion during a period of extremely high water levels. It was modeled after a similar project in another great lakes city. It worked for its intended purpose (the sand is still there), but regretfully nobody was able to predict the dangerous currents that would be a side effect.

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