Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Wisconsin Avenue Park Will Be Area’s First With Universal Access

First in southeastern Wisconsin where everything full accessible for those with disabilities.

By - Sep 15th, 2022 02:12 pm

Site plan for upgrades to Wisconsin Avenue Park.

Milwaukee County Parks has once again partnered with the Ability Center, this time to turn Wisconsin Avenue Park in Wauwatosa into a Universal Ability Park.

The “universal park,” as it’s being called, will be the first entirely accessible park in southeastern Wisconsin, according to Milwaukee County Parks. The project aims to make everything in the park accessible to people with disabilities; from “ball diamonds to playgrounds to nature trails,” said Guy Smith, executive director of parks.

The Ability Center is a non-profit that works to increase accessibility to public spaces and programming in Milwaukee County for people who are disabled. It has worked with parks to install mats at Bradford Beach and provide wheelchairs that can roll on top of the sand, accessible ice skating sleds at Red Arrow Park and hand cycles in Veterans Park.

“I think the pandemic really opened all of our eyes to what isn’t accessible and what isn’t available,” said Damian Buchman, founder and CEO of The Ability Center. When everything was shut down and public spaces, like parks, were all that was left, people with disabilities, who are already often more isolated, found themselves even more so, he said. “Our mission is to provide people impacted by disabilities with daily opportunities to be fit, active, healthy and play,” Buchman said.

The plan for Wisconsin Avenue Park, 10300 W. Wisconsin Ave., entails building out a universally accessible playground, field, walking trail, play pockets, fitness stations, a challenge course and clubhouse.

The Ability Center has already invested $30,000 into the project, conducting a tree survey and a topographical survey; and Kahler Slater has already designed a new park clubhouse. The total project cost is estimated at approximately $7 million. The YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee has already committed to fundraising $500,000 toward the project cost. The rest is being fundraised from other private donors and foundations. The project comes at zero cost to Milwaukee County.

The project will be carried out in two phases. First, the existing 1960s-era clubhouse will be replaced with a modern, accessible facility. It will have updated restrooms for people of all abilities, with caretaker restrooms and changing tables for children and adults. There will also be charging stations for mobility and communication devices. This phase will also include the universal field, which will have surfacing for youth and adult wheelchair baseball and softball. The YMCA’s miracle league, a baseball league for people with disabilities, will use the field as their home field.

Leila Wright, vice president of mission advancement for YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee, said the universal field in Wauwatosa will increase access to playfields for families and people impacted by disabilities in the county. She said that not everyone is able to make it to the areas that currently offer programming. “Now, my kids can play sports in our local community… but in the adaptive sports world that just isn’t possible,” she said. “There’s just not enough resources in communities.”

The second phase will see an accessible half-mile meandering path cut through the woods in the park. The tree survey allows the path to be cut without harming healthy trees. A challenge course designed for people of all abilities, with obstacles of varying difficulty, will be constructed during this phase, as well.

UPDATE: This story was updated to reflect that the YMCA has committed $500,000 to the project, which it affirmed to Urban Milwaukee. An earlier report from Milwaukee County Parks indicated the YMCA had committed to fundraising $1 million toward the project.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Categories: MKE County, Parks

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us