Welcome to Preserve Our Parks

Preserve Our Parks, a nonprofit watchdog group, battles to keep Milwaukee area parks open and green, resists incursions for non-park uses, and fights for funds to properly maintain one of the County’s greatest treasures, its parks system.

POP was founded in 1999 by a group of Milwaukeeans concerned about the future of our public parks, green spaces and the lakefront. Over the years, we had seen our parks nibbled by sales, leases and easements. We'd seen public policies on parks grow lenient. We'd seen our parks invaded by non-park, non-public purposes.

Find out more about Preserve Our Parks!

Why the Public Must Protect Milwaukee County Parks

Historical Context:

The nationally recognized Milwaukee County Parks System was thoughtfully designed and developed with a mission to provide public parks and green space for all, and to serve everyone equally.

These parks, parkways, trails, preserves and beaches play indispensable roles in the county’s vitality. These high-value assets contribute to economic impacts and help make the region an appealing place to live and visit.

This system, which incorporates watersheds, woodlands, environmental corridors, and other natural resources, helps protect against flooding and promotes climate-related resilience. Many of these parks are governed by Wisconsin’s constitutional “public trust doctrine” and other long-held legal protections, which must be honored.

Milwaukee County’s public parks cost-effectively foster the physical and mental well-being of individuals, as well as overall community health, as demonstrated during the pandemic. They are not “discretionary” amenities to be enjoyed by those who can afford to pay for their existence and use.

Parks are fundamental parts of societal infrastructure. They must not be expected to function as business enterprises or to “pay for themselves” with revenue generated by those who rely on them for sustenance.

Parks serve as common ground for democracy, and as public spaces where everyone holds an equal stake and has the same civil and constitutional rights.

To protect the value and functionality of the Milwaukee County Parks System, and more than a century of taxpayer investments, we urge re-dedication to the following guiding principles:

Public funding is absolutely critical. Our parks deserve stable, sustainable and dedicated funding to maintain the parks-infrastructure legacy we have inherited. Future generations are counting on us to secure such funding. 

The Milwaukee County Parks System must remain under diligent governmental control and oversight. It must function as a holistic system, in order to retain its overall integrity and equitable access for all. Piecemeal dismantling of this system will inevitably exacerbate social, racial and economic inequities. It will disinherit future generations from public assets acquired by far-sighted forbears to serve this community in perpetuity.

Any public-private partnership offers value only to the extent that it conserves parks and their role as public infrastructure, supports wise park stewardship, and maintains equal public access to all park amenities. It is imperative that partnerships merely supplement, but not supplant, governmental oversight of parks.

Public-private partnership agreements unequivocally must protect public assets and the greater good. Non-park, non-public uses; encroachments, and transfers of parkland that allow private entities to control or exploit parks and public land are all unacceptable and inherently inequitable.

It will not serve the greater good for present-day stewards (elected and appointed) to abdicate from governmental responsibilities and management of the Milwaukee County Parks System, or to resort to short-sighted actions and agreements that foreclose on our future. 

Public servants of Milwaukee County have the capacity to find solutions for funding and maintaining a forward-looking, equitable park system that serves all and conserves irreplaceable natural and historic resources. County residents must collaborate with those officials to ensure that parks and public health are protected.




Park Funding


Our Parks deserve a stable, sustainable and dedicated funding source in order to provide the legacy of Parks we have come to know and appreciate. Future generations are counting on us to fix this problem. Preserve Our Parks commissioned a study of how other major urban areas in the United States are funding their parks though innovative ways.  We could learn from their initiatives. 

Follow this link to the story.