Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Supervisors Propose Parks Youth Corps

A program for high school students to learn, earn a stipend and help maintain the parks.

By - Jul 19th, 2022 08:42 pm

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee County Courthouse. Photo by Sulfur at English Wikipedia (GFDL) or (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

A handful of Milwaukee County supervisors are proposing the creation of a corps of young people working in Milwaukee County Parks.

A resolution authored by Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson and Supervisors Steven Shea and Felesia Martin, asks the parks department to study the feasibility of creating a “County Parks Youth Corps to engage high school-aged students in park worker roles and assist with maintenance of Milwaukee County Parks.”

The authors would like to see students paid a stipend, and for parks to look into partnering with Milwaukee Public Schools and other county school districts on potentially offering school credit. The resolution also asks parks to look into possible partnerships with other county departments and governmental entities like the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Youth Commission and the ONE Milwaukee Taskforce.

The proposal went before the board’s Committee on Parks and Culture Tuesday, which unanimously recommended it for approval by the full board.

Shea told the committee the program would “get high schoolers involved in our Milwaukee County Parks” and that he hoped it would become a pipeline for future parks workers, considering the department has struggled with a seasonal worker shortage.

“Students who successfully complete the program will have, hopefully, a leg up on getting a job in the park,” he said.

Martin said she hoped the program would expand young people’s horizons and their ideas of what sort of careers are out there, particularly for young people who live in the city of Milwaukee.

“Perhaps we can pique their interest in looking at becoming part of forestry and going to college for forestry careers… and also the possibility of becoming parks rangers,” she said. “If we can show people beyond themselves what’s open and available to them, perhaps they can start channeling all their energy into something positive.”

Working in the parks, young people can learn about what it takes to maintain a park or natural area, and “build up their level of self confidence,” Nicholson said.

The co-authors also see the program as a way to forge partnerships that will help the parks department better manage its significant portfolio of parks and amenities. The resolution notes that the Wisconsin Policy Forum has suggested in reports on the finances of the parks department and the county as a whole that parks should look at ways to collaborate with MPS and other school districts.

MPS has Milwaukee Recreation, a division of the school district that programs and maintains parks and playgrounds throughout the city of Milwaukee.

The supervisors say there are already programs in the Milwaukee area that could serve as models for the parks youth corps. In the resolution they point to programs run by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) Fresh Cost Fresh Start and the Fresh Coast Ambassadors.

The first program, Fresh Coast Fresh Start works with Cream City Conservation, Milwaukee Jobs Work, and Milwaukee County Parks to give people who have recently been incarcerated and are unemployed training and experience with jobs like wastewater management and green infrastructure construction among other things. The second, Fresh Coast Ambassadors, works with Boys & Girls Club and Cream City Conservation to give young people experience working with green infrastructure.

If the resolution is passed by the full board, parks staff will return a feasibility report to the board by December of this year.

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