Cleaning up South Shore Beach: MillerCoors joins UW-Milwaukee in the effort

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee's South Shore Beach could soon be a lot cleaner, thanks to the city's largest brewery. MillerCoors announced it is donating a half-million dollars toward the cleanup of South Shore Beach.

Currently, E. Coli is a big problem at a South Shore Beach. With money from MillerCoors and a partnership with UW-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee County Parks System believes it's ready to solve that problem -- one caused primarily by birds and cars.

You need water to make beer. MillerCoors hopes its $500,000 gift will improve water quality at South Shore Beach.

"We felt it`s an asset in Milwaukee that`s underutilized and it needed work and it needed to be cleaned up," Tom Cardella with MillerCoors said.

When Milwaukee County Parks has to close South Shore Beach, E. Coli is almost entirely to blame. Researchers from UW-Milwaukee say there are two main causes.

"We found the birds contribute a lot and the run-off from the parking lot contributes a lot of E. Coli and those are the sources we really have to try and mitigate," UW-Milwaukee Freshwater Sciences Professor Sandra McLellan said.

Five years ago, MillerCoors contributed to the cleanup of Bradford Beach -- which was experiencing similar problems. The county has worked to keep the gulls away from the beach, and has worked to funnel run-off from the parking lot away from the lake.

"Work on the run-off from the parking lot, direct that to some kind of rain garden, something that captures the water rather than sending it to the swimming area," McLellan said.

As water conditions have improved at Bradford Beach, county officials hope to see similar progress in Bay View.

"It means the likelihood that they`re ever gonna see, in the future, a sign saying the beach is closed, that it`s not safe, is something that`s just not gonna happen," Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said.

County officials say they hope this gift will allow them to study and improve the south shoreline, while saving public money.

"This is our home. We`re proud of it and we want to make it even greater," Cardella said.

The half-million dollar donation is supposed to fund a five-year program. In addition to cleaning up the beach, UWM will do long-term research on the shoreline as a whole to see if any other changes are needed.

Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic was among those who accepted the $500,000 contribution on behalf of the Bay View community from MillerCoors on Wednesday, August 27th at South Shore Park.

"Thank you to MillerCoors for continuing to invest in Milwaukee County Parks,” Dimitrijevic said. “On behalf of the residents in Bay View, we thank them for helping us to build on our vision for an improved beach for all to enjoy. We are grateful to have such a wonderful natural resource in our neighborhood and thankful for an amazing, local partner like MillerCoors."

Dimitrijevic, who lives very close to the park and is a longtime member of the South Shore Park Watch, said cleaning up the beach has been a priority of hers since taking office in 2004. She worked with neighborhood groups to bring $2.8 million of county and federal dollars to south shore to rebuild the break wall, improve the bike trail and restore the shoreline.

In addition, Dimitrijevic authored a successful budget amendment last year, directing county funds to the Parks Department to purchase a beach groomer to clean the sand along the South Shore. Planning and phase 1 designs will reconstruct the South Shore Yacht Club parking lot, which has needed repair and is contributing to runoff polluting the water. By replacing the current pavement with permeable pavement, runoff will be reduced and water quality will improve.

“I am ecstatic about this new partnership with MillerCoors in Milwaukee County. Their investment in Bradford Beach has contributed to a great revitalization that we are ready for in Bay View,” said Chairwoman Dimitrijevic. “The return on this kind investment will be felt for generations to come. I can’t wait for families all over Milwaukee County to be able to enjoy our beach once again. Thank you to MillerCoors for believing in Bay View and continuing to contribute to Milwaukee.”