Commission Pauses Proposal For Another Lakefront War Memorial
Project site would disrupt newly installed green infrastructure. Residents suggest other sites.
The proposal to place a new monument on Milwaukee’s lakefront has been paused after the planned site was identified as vital green infrastructure. It is to be located just north of the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.
The monument would be a memorial for Gold Star families, those that lost a loved one in combat fighting for the U.S. military. It is proposed by the Louisville-based Woody Williams Foundation, which has worked to place more than 100 nearly identical monuments across the country.
The black granite monument, which would be seven feet tall and up to 11 feet wide, would look identical to more than 100 of other monuments installed or proposed by the foundation. Though, Dale Egan, foundation vice president, said there would be some inscriptions that would be tailored to Milwaukee and Wisconsin. “It’s quite Milwaukee specific like almost no other monument could be,” said Egan.
The memorial is proposed for the northern end of the Milwaukee County War Memorial grounds, just south of Veterans Park. The site is within the Lakefront Cultural Condominium, a legal structure created in 2017 to oversee land in the area owned by the Milwaukee Art Museum, the War Memorial Center and Milwaukee County. Because the site is not formally parkland, County Executive David Crowley does not need the approval of the county board to let the memorial move forward. However, the administration still had the project go before the board’s Committee on Parks and Culture in September.
Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman, also a member of LDAC, raised the concern that placing the memorial on this site would destroy some of the green infrastructure and pla
ntings that were part of a recently-completed $1.3 million project undertaken by MMSD, the Fund for Lake Michigan and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Tearing up any of this recently installed infrastructure would “be the ultimate in wasting taxpayer dollars,” Wasserman said.
William Lynch, chair of LDAC, read a letter he received from MMSD stating that the area proposed is protected by a conservation easement granted to the sewerage district for the stormwater project. “Placement of the new memorial would be a major disruption and would cause significant, irreversible damage to the site,” says a similar letter from Fund For Lake Michigan.
“The War Memorial Center site has been completely transformed and now includes an intricate system of bioswales and porous pavers along with extensive native plantings designed to both capture stormwater and enhance habitat for migratory birds and other shoreline wildlife,” says the fund’s letter. “The project, which was many years in the making, was completed just last year and the public is already seeing the benefits of these new green features. Along with improved stormwater management, the native plantings are attracting pollinators, birds and other wildlife.”
County residents offering public comment to the commission noted that one of the criteria LDAC must consider for lakefront developments is the necessity that it be located on the lakefront. Patricia Jursik, a former county supervisor and a current board member of Preserve our Parks, proposed Wood National Cemetery as an alternative site.
Laurie Muench, a former parks employee, counseled against moving forward with the memorial. She said there have been countless proposals or memorials and monuments on the lakefront over the years and that agreeing to this one would likely open the door for a deluge of other proposals. “In my experience, the proposals will not stop coming,” she said.
After hearing the feedback from the commission and stakeholders in the green infrastructure project, Egan said the foundation is open to considering other sites for the monument. The commission ultimately tabled the issue until the foundation returns with a new proposed site.