What we stand for

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.

In 1999 a loud alarm sounded when we learned of a very quiet County-City agreement to remove the deed restrictions on 31 parks -- parks originally owned by the City but transferred to the County in the 1930s. Without these deed restrictions, these parks would be unprotected against sales, leases and conversions to other uses.

POP got organized. We raised funds and filed a lawsuit contesting the removal of the deed restrictions. Our action prevailed, with both City and County agreeing that the deed restrictions must be restored. Our lawsuit was settled out of court.

Since then, we have mounted a number of park-preservation and enhancement initiatives. Here is a list of some of them:

  • Rallied citizens to prevent razing of Lincoln Park's Blatz Pavilion and its replacement with a private social center (2000).
  • Funded a Public Policy Forum study of the parks and sponsored a forum on parks during the County elections (2002).
  • Opposed installation of an indoor soccer facility in Kosciuszko Park (2003, another site found).
  • Advocated for creation of the Lakefront Development Advisory Commission, and helped organize it (2004).
  • Led the opposition to berthing the mothballed warship USS Des Moines on the lakefront (2004-2005; proposal withdrawn).
  • Sought to save several City park parcels from development (unsuccessful).
  • Helped influence the Lake Park lighthouse restoration effort toward greater sustainability (2006; recommendations incorporated in plans).
  • Opposed the transfer of Bender Park lands to Oak Creek for development (2005-2007, transfer rejected).
  • Opposed a main entrance proposed off Honey Creek Parkway for a new Aurora Health Care Center (proposal granted, but heavy trucks prohibited).
  • Opposed a health organization's initiative to create a lakefront memorial plaza promoting its name and cause (2007-2008, request denied).
  • Opposed a War Memorial Center expansion to house a Veterans’ Museum (proposal redirected to VA grounds).
  • Encouraged demolition of the old fire-damaged Coast Guard station at the north end of Juneau Park and construction of an open-air pavilion on the site (completed).
  • Led opposition to construction on the Lakefront of an office building/headquarters for the Milwaukee Water Council (proposal withdrawn).
  • Opposed reconstruction of the restaurant on that site, as violating Wisconsin Public Trust law (work completed).
  • Funded a one-week program, by Artists Working in Education (AWE), of education, activities, and fun for children in Garden Homes Park, a sorely neglected inner-city park (2010, 2011).
  • Partially funded an intern position to assist the Parks Department's Natural Areas Coordinator (2010, 2011).

Currently we are:

  • Helping to raise funds to restore Johnsons Park and environs. Participating in efforts to find adequate, secure funding for the parks.
  • Keeping an eye on proposals to redevelop O’Donnell Park in an effort to halt more commercial erosion of Lakefront parkland.
  • Helping to form City guidelines requiring developers to preserve the bluffs along the lakefront bike path.
  • Trying to keep maximum public green space on the County Grounds, originally informally designated parkland, now being sliced up for a variety of uses.
  • Working to assure that the War Memorial Center parking lot is scaled back to the line set originally.
  • Striving to see that new park concessionaires are chosen fairly and abide by established contracts.
  • Working to see that refurbishment plans for parks are chosen through public processes and with public input.

In our work, we cooperate closely with other civic and environmental groups. Our membership in the Milwaukee County Conservation Coalition (MCCC) links us to about 25 green groups who share our concerns and can help us respond to issues involving parkland loss or misuse.

Organizationally, we keep things simple. We have no office or staff. Board members do most Preserve Our Parks work.. We have a list of about 2,500 supporters but no members as such and no membership dues, renewals or meetings. We send supporters a twice-yearly newsletter and occasional email notices. When needed, we hire outside help — printing, secretarial, computer-technical, graphic design, etc. We are supported by our board members and by donors who respond to our end-of-year appeal.

Our board generally meets monthly. Between meetings, we attend County and City parks meetings, investigate issues, provide public information, communicate with public officials, stay in touch with each other by email. We pride ourselves on our members' range of interests and capabilities and their dedication to our cause.

We are sometimes asked how we differ from The Park People. Park People, founded in 1977, is the older group. Their organization supports park preservation, but they are mainly focused on park betterment — on promoting park volunteerism and citizen aid to parks of all kinds. POP's focus is more strictly on park preservation and on the issues surrounding it. We have demonstrated a willingness to participate in adversarial proceedings regarding preservation and are willing to turn to litigation if necessary.

Have we succeeded in our promise to "preserve our parks"? We have had both victories and setbacks but, on balance, we believe POP has had significant success. Park preservation is a continuing task. We thank all our past supporters and welcome new ones, and pledge to continue our efforts. Our magnificent park heritage is well worth it.