With parks and trails in high-demand during the summer, a new “Love Your Parks” campaign launched on July 3 with the aim to rally community support around much-needed funding for Milwaukee County’s parks.

Access to parks, trails and open spaces have become more important than ever during this time as Milwaukee County struggles from the impacts of COVID-19, racial inequities, and the impacts of years of budget cuts. The new Love Your Parks Campaign launched as a way to provide new ways for the community to help the parks they love through volunteering, donating, and sharing stories of why parks are essential to them.

“Parks and trails have proven themselves to be critical to life in Milwaukee County. They strengthen our community, create jobs, improve our health and provide benefits for every single resident,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “It’s essential we think boldly and find long-term solutions for funding parks, as they are vital to advancing the County’s vision that… By achieving racial equity, Milwaukee is the healthiest county in Wisconsin.”

Milwaukeeans have flocked to parks and trails during the COVID pandemic to get fresh air, exercise or relieve stress and anxiety. While tee-sheets at golf courses are full and beer gardens are reopening, the park system is still facing a $10 million budget shortfall due to the loss of revenue from services including rentals, special event permits and visitor admissions.

“Taxpayers each contribute just thirty cents a year per park, so we rely on fees from services to make up the remainder of our budget,” said Guy Smith, Executive Director of Milwaukee County Parks. “This summer, the pandemic has forced us to close or delay opening of a lot of those revenue generating services. Drastic cuts to spending and seasonal staffing are having direct impacts on park maintenance.”

Volunteer options include small group projects, like becoming a ‘park steward’ at a specific park to help clean up. Individuals can become a ‘micro-volunteer,’ an anytime or anywhere effort to help with trash clean-up.

“We’ve heard from a lot of residents who are concerned about seeing longer grass, closed facilities and fewer trash pick-ups, and they’re asking how they can help. We’re launching the Love Your Parks campaign to provide options for anyone who wants to volunteer, donate or simply, give their parks some love,” added Smith.

The Milwaukee Parks Foundation, formed last fall, is accepting donations for Parks from individuals or businesses, and a portion of the sales from four-packs of a new ParkLife beer, will also be donated to the Foundation. The honey lager, which features a limited-edition can design inspired by Grant Park, was created in collaboration with Sprecher Brewery and Beer Capital. The cans are available now in local stores, as well as parks beer gardens and golf courses.

“We are so excited to support the launch of the Love Your Parks campaign today,” said Milwaukee Parks Foundation Chair, Tami Garrison. “We echo the Love Your Parks community calls to action and are committed to fostering dynamic connections through our land and community, expanding what is possible in our neighborhoods, and engaging residents in supporting a safe and vibrant parks system that benefits all.”

Visitors to loveyourparksmke.com can also submit videos or stories about why parks are essential to them, get the facts about parks funding and staffing, and access a new Parks Explorer app, which includes interactive maps and information on all 158 parks in the Milwaukee County Park System.

© Photo

Lee Matz

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