Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Supervisors Back Sherman Park Overhaul

Funding for Sherman Park improvements approved by powerful Committee on Finance.

By - Apr 19th, 2023 07:30 pm

Aerial map of Sherman Park. Milwaukee County Parks.

The Milwaukee County Board is poised to contribute nearly $1 million to an overhaul of Sherman Park.

The board’s powerful Committee on Finance has approved approximately $962,000 for a project led by The Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club and called “Reimagining Sherman Park.” The total cost for the project is approximately $2.5 million and involves more than a dozen individual improvement projects.

The Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club has been in Sherman Park for more than 30 years, said David Knutson, vice president of government affairs for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. “We think it’s an ideal spot,” he said. “We’re there for the long term.”

The project calls for 13 individual investments around the park ranging from a new splash pad to signage and a new covered picnic area. Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, who represents the park in her district, said, “This project is so important for the Sherman Park community.”

For the past few years, the Boys and Girls Clubs have been collaborating with Milwaukee County Parks to plan a series of projects to improve Sherman Park, as Parks deputy director James Tarantino told the committee Thursday. The $962,000 would come out of the county’s allocation of federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and Tarantino said Parks plans to commit some funding from other ARPA projects toward “Reimagining Sherman Park.”

With the county money, and $300,000 from the Boys and Girls Clubs, the full project is over 50% funded, Knutson said. The county allocation would cover the development of a splash pad where the wading pool currently is, improvements to what is currently the “waste management area,” and pathway and lighting improvements throughout the park.

The parks system has struggled with lifeguard staffing and seasonal employee staffing in recent years. The splash pad would “add an aquatic amenity to that Sherman Park neighborhood that we could operate more efficiently each and every summer,” Tarantino said.

Just east of the Boys and Girls Clubhouse, there is a paved area that looks like a parking lot that stores the park’s garbage bins. This area was, in fact, supposed to be a basketball court and paved for that purpose, Tarantino said. Under the plan, the garbage facilities would be moved and improvements made to the court.

When Parks conducted public outreach, “The number one piece of feedback is that the lighting needs to be upgraded in Sherman Park,” Tarantino said. That and walking path improvements would be covered by county funds.

Knutson told the committee that U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore has recommended the project, as well as improvements to the clubhouse, for funding through a federal earmark. “We won’t know the final outcome of that until later this year,” he said.

Sup. Sequanna Taylor said, “I’m happy to see that we are doing some great things over here,” and asked if there were any plans to protect parkgoers from reckless driving. The supervisor said she has received calls about people driving through the park.

Knutson said the club has “identified a possible grant that would allow us to put some black decorative fencing up that might better protect the playground area.” 

Taylor also asked about the ideas for programming for the teens and young people that hang around the park but aren’t necessarily involved in the Boys and Girls Clubs. Knutson said the club is looking into reviving a basketball league in the park.

Chairwoman Nicholson told the committee that the Sherman Park area “is a historically underinvested community,” adding, “As we know, this particular community has seen various uprisings; it has also seen lots of positive.”

“And we know that an active park is a safer park,” she said. “But we can’t have active parks without investment, without upgrades, right, without reimagining what it is that we’re providing to that community.”

The funding proposal was unanimously approved by the Committee on Finance and will next go to the full board for final approval.

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