Milwaukee County faces issues when replacing bridges

August 23, 2016


The Jackson Park lagoon is a significant water feature within the Kinnickinnic River Parkway, which is listed in the National Register.
The Jackson Park lagoon is a significant water feature within the Kinnickinnic River Parkway, which is
listed in the National Register.

The entire Milwaukee County Park System is a historic treasure, not just some of its 158 parks and 11 parkways. Local materials and handcrafted masonry are among the system’s hallmarks. Many county parks were built or improved by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s and 1940s, after Charles Whitnall master planned the system in 1923.

But their maintenance can be a challenge. How to keep the parks’ “character-defining” features was the focus of recent research and planning. A thorough 2012-13 study included a Milwaukee County Parkway Inventory Report. A second report, The Historic Properties Management Plan for county parks, is a blueprint for preserving elements of the system, which county, state and federal officials agreed “was eligible for the National Register.”

A required federal review has found that Milwaukee County and Wisconsin Department of Transportation had replaced five park bridges within county parkways without duly considering their historic significance, thus creating an “adverse effect on the System.” In response an inter-agency agreement was developed “to both mitigate, in part, for those losses and chart a different course for the future.” The management plan addressed how to preserve the integrity of park buildings, roads, trails, small-scale structures, and landscape and water features. Architects, engineers and historians at Mead & Hunt prepared both reports.

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