Deferred parking lots maintenance reveal major parks challenges

By Ben Juarez

Over the past two years, the Forum has been conducting a long-term research project analyzing the condition of local government infrastructure in metro Milwaukee and the capacity of local governments to finance their infrastructure needs. So far, our five-part series of reports has included installments on City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County roads, bridges and buses; MMSD and City of Milwaukee sewer, wastewater, and water assets; and City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County buildings.

Our next report — to be released in May — is examining the condition of the County’s parks, recreation, and cultural assets. Finding the resources to support this infrastructure has been a topic of contention in recent weeks, with County residents turning out in droves at a recent public meeting to oppose a new parking fee at County parks. While that fee has been taken off the table for now, it may re-emerge in the future given the County’s overall financial challenges.

Although we do not normally share key findings before a report is released, one of our findings that has emerged in our upcoming report merits attention in light of these recent events.

As shown in the chart below, parking lots in County parks are in dire need of reconstruction and/or rehabilitation. In fact, 39% of the nearly 6.4 million square feet of parking lots are deemed to be in need of reconstruction as soon as possible, and 85% should be reconstructed within the next decade. The County has appropriated $2.1 million toward the McKinley Marina parking lot in its 2018 Capital Budget. In the prior 2 years it had invested $1.6 million and no funds were appropriated in 2014 and 2015. Despite these prior investments and the lone project in 2018, we may see further deterioration of other parking lots in the next year due to the County’s prioritization of other capital needs such as parkways.

We are not sharing these data to advocate for parking fees, but rather to make the point that the parks do have serious infrastructure needs that will have to be addressed. Also, we couldn’t help but note the irony of the uproar over a parks parking fee when the parking lots that would be subject to the fee are one of the most serious infrastructure issues facing Milwaukee County.

Stay tuned for our full report on Milwaukee County’s parks, recreation, and cultural facilities in a couple of months.