In Living

The Milwaukee County Parks' pay to park proposal did not prove popular with residents.

Abele proposes canceling Pay to Park in the County Parks plan

According to a statement released Tuesday morning, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has proposed abandoning the pay to park program he included in the 2018 county budget.

Background on the proposal, which drew swift opposition from the public, can be found here.

Because the budget was passed by the County Board, eliminating the plan requires a financial hole to be plugged and according to the statement, Abele suggests filling the $1.6 million gap with a "one-time draw from the County's contingency 'rainy day' fund."

"We added a requirement for the administration to hold public hearing," said 14th District County Supervisor Jason Haas, who is chair of the County Board's Parks, Energy and Environment committee. "In my time on the County Board, I've never seen such a deep and broad public objection to anything like the pay to park proposal."

Abele said he considered two other possible solutions, too, including cutting $1.6 million in expenses, which the statement said would have meant closing the Domes, Boerner Botanical Gardens, Wehr Nature Center and County-run Community Centers; and increasing, by $5, the Vehicle Registration Fee.

"We asked for public input in order to better understand how people feel about this new dedicated revenue stream to support the parks system," Abele said in the statement. "I said from the beginning that charging for parking in the parks is not something that I would ever want to do, but we felt it was preferable to yet more cuts to our already strained parks system.

"Given the outpouring of feedback we've received, I am pleased that we will be able to avoid charging visitors from paying to park their vehicles this year. But we should be very clear that this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem."

Asked if he thinks the board will support the move to withdraw the plan, Haas said, "Abele's new proposal is to cut all funding to the Domes, Wehr Nature Center, Boerner Botanical Gardens, King Community Center, Kosciusko Community Center and our par-3 golf courses. That is not something the County Board would approve of.

"This highlights the need for dedicated (parks) funding."

If pay to park vanishes, the funding shortfall must be addressed again in discussions for next year's budget.

"Our parks make Milwaukee County a truly remarkable community, and it's essential that we all work together to ensure they are protected for our children and generations to come. If confirmed, I plan to work closely with the County Board to find solutions to this intractable problem," said Jim Sullivan, interim director of Milwaukee County Parks, in the statement.


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