Lake Park Friends
Press Release

City Should Enforce Reopening of Ravine Road, Park Friends Say in Filing

Group Says County Plan is Unnecessarily Expensive, Wastes Tax Dollars

By - Sep 28th, 2023 03:45 pm

Milwaukee (September 28, 2023) – Lake Park Friends (LPF), the award-winning non-profit stewardship organization, is asking the City of Milwaukee to enforce historic preservation requirements to reopen the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Ravine Road to cars and bikes.

In a filing with the city, LPF wrote it determined “after consultation with historians and staff of the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission that the failure to reopen Ravine Road to vehicular traffic following completion of the bridge repair — without obtaining a Certificate of Appropriateness — is a change of use that violates the City’s Historic Preservation ordinance, section 320-21.”

“We support preserving Milwaukee’s historic built environment, the work and jurisdiction of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), and its preservation ordinances that protect Lake Park, the surrounding neighborhood and other parts of Milwaukee,” LPF Board President Anne Hamilton said. “If any property owner is allowed to simply ignore adopted historic preservation guidelines, more of Milwaukee’s built history, including the legacy of our beloved park, would be lost.”

LPF, which has raised more than $3 million to improve Lake Park since the group’s founding 27 years ago, says the cost of reopening the road now was less than $30,000, which would pay for tree trimming, street sweep and temporary pavement patching. Proposals by Milwaukee County seek at least $500,000 and as much as $1.4 million to close or substantially close the road. “We oppose such wasteful spending by Milwaukee County to needlessly end this road’s historic use,” Hamilton said.

Designed in the 1890s as a passenger drive by Olmsted, the famed landscape architect who designed Lake Park, Ravine Road carried cars since it opened in the early 1900s.

The drive was closed to all uses in 2014 to permit repair of the deteriorating concrete pedestrian bridge that runs across it. The road was reopened last November, after repairs were substantially completed. Yet Ravine Road remains closed, despite numerous LPF requests and the city ordinance.

In an April letter, HPC staff wrote that “all alterations must be reviewed and approved by the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission through the Certificate of Appropriateness [COA] process. The following actions would be considered an alteration and include, but are not limited to, closure of the road to vehicular traffic; modifying the shape, width, or path of the roadway; or removing the roadway in its entirety. It is understood that the temporary closure was necessary due to the safety issues presented by the deteriorated bridge. Those safety issues are no longer present and permanent closure would harm the character and purpose of Lake Park and the Milwaukee County Parkway System.”

After the concrete bridge was closed in 2014, LPF advocated for its preservation, while some county officials suggested demolishing it and replacing it with a modern bridge. LPF hired engineers to show the bridge could be restored, despite county engineers saying it couldn’t be. Eventually the county received and contributed funding to restore the bridge, with LPF raising $300,000 for future maintenance.

In the past, Milwaukee County has sought and received COAs that approved more than 20 renovation projects to county properties in the city, including Lake Park bridges and Lake Park Pavilion, and it has acknowledged it must comply with city guidelines and procedures.

“Lake Park Friends has actively supported historic preservation as part of our mission to maintain the integrity of this Frederick Law Olmsted park and Milwaukee treasure,” Hamilton said. “We expect Milwaukee County officials to continue to respect Milwaukee’s preservation ordinances and not make changes to historic properties, like closing the drive to cars, without following the applicable regulatory review and approval process.”

Hamilton noted that LPF has proposed limited closures of the drive. If the county agrees to the compromise, HPC approval would be needed.

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. It has not been verified for its accuracy or completeness.

Mentioned in This Press Release

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Recent Press Releases by Lake Park Friends

Lake Park Friends Calls on Milwaukee County to Immediately Reopen Ravine Road to Cars

Road was closed in 2014 due to issues with pedestrian bridge which has since been repaired.

Diverse Lineups Released for Musical Mondays’ 25th Season and Wonderful Wednesdays Shows in Lake Park This Summer

Special opera performance to kick off 2023 summer music in the park

Free Events Announced for July 16 “Celebrate Olmsted Day” in Lake Park

Activities include parade, birthday cake, scavenger hunt and vintage jazz

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