Milwaukee County Parks ‘Go Green' fundraiser, $500M+ deferred maintenance

Milwaukee County Parks officials are working to protect the county's 156 parks, facing more than $500 million in deferred maintenance.

There's just something magical about Milwaukee's lakefront, but the parks could feel different if something doesn't change.

"Just a great place to go with family and friends," said Joseph Brown.

For 23 years, South Shore Park has been a place for Brown to reflect.

"I just like to get out in nature because nature helps to balance you out," said Brown.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, Brown also had a front-row seat for a celebration. 

The Milwaukee Parks Foundation hosted the first "Go Green for Parks" event.

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"We’re in a situation where we have this beautiful gem all across Milwaukee County, and we need a way to help invigorate it and be able to fund it," said Guy Smith, Milwaukee County Parks.

The Milwaukee Parks Foundation formed in 2019 to help with budget challenges. The Milwaukee County Parks budget has not increased since the 1980s, with more than $500 million worth of deferred maintenance. Smith said people are going to start noticing.

"You’re going to have litter," said Guy. "You’re not going to have grass mowed as much as you want. You’re not going to have all the restrooms open."

Smith said fundraisers like the one on Tuesday are only a part of the solution.

"A little bit can go a long way," said Smith. "Is it going to solve all of our problems? No."

Brown said he hopes it's all figured out so he can keep his spot for another 23 years.

Smith said the department is working with the Wisconsin Policy Forum on a study to figure out a long-term funding solution.