Celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Milwaukee County Parks System are on tap for the entire summer, and South Shore Park, Humboldt Park and Grant Park all figure prominently in plans to mark the milestone.
Jeff Baudry, marketing director for Milwaukee County Parks, said the festivities include more than 100 free concerts in the parks, the planting of 100 trees and the installation of memorial plaques commemorating the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Milwaukee County Parks Commission in 1907.
The Park People, a nonprofit volunteer organization that supports area parks, is sponsoring a raffle with a chance to win a Harley-Davidson FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic motorcycle and other prizes as part of the celebration.
Chill on the Hill, a summer-long free concert series, with a wide-ranging variety of music, began this week at Humboldt Park, 3000 S. Howell Ave., and continues at the park's chalet band shell at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday nights through Aug. 28. The concerts are sponsored by the Bay View Neighborhood Association, Milwaukee County Parks and American Legion Band.
South Shore to welcome dogs
A free concert is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 8, at South Shore Park pavilion, 2900 S. Shore Drive, featuring the band One Drum, said Kathy Mulvey, president of the South Shore Park Watch.
The official announcement that South Shore Park is now a "dog-friendly" park will be made at the concert, Mulvey said, as the "No Dogs Allowed" signs are replaced with signs reminding dog owners to keep their canines leashed and to clean up after them.
To make that cleanup more convenient, John and Anne Nehring of Groppi's Market are donating several "pet waste stations" to the park, Mulvey said.
Mulvey said the event also will feature a walking tour of "Edge Elements," South Shore Park's public art project - a series of granite sculptures by artist Richard Hansen.
Raffle tickets for the Harley drawing will be offered for sale during the concert, Mulvey said, with 50 cents of each $5 ticket sold by the South Shore Park Watch benefiting South Shore Park.
Realizing vision for parks
At Grant Park, 100 E. Hawthorne Ave., the South Milwaukee Municipal Band kicks off the free concert season from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 14. The Thursday free concert series continues monthly through Aug. 30.
A free concert by the Milwaukee Youth Orchestra is scheduled at Mitchell Park Conservatory, also known as The Domes, 524 S. Layton Blvd., from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3.
Baudry said the significance of the formation of the Milwaukee County Parks Commission 100 years ago is that it allowed the county to acquire land outside Milwaukee's city limits.
He said the park system's more than 15,000 acres and 150 parks and parkways are what visionary planners like Charles B. Whitnall had in mind when they advocated for public green spaces that residents and visitors could enjoy.
"The park system itself is one of the finest in the nation. For people living here, they might not recognize that," he said. "If you go to any other city, you realize what a gem we have, and for the most part, it's free."
As an example, he pointed to the 108-mile Oak Leaf Trail.
"We call it the emerald necklace," Baudry said. "That by itself is huge and it's free."
Baudry said the parks were originally designed as places where residents could voice their opinions and discuss the burning issues of the day.
Funds for parks shrinking
Both Baudry and Mulvey said management of today's county parks is increasingly challenging due to shrinking budgets. Baudry said he believes the Parks Department "really does a good job with limited budgeting" and is continually trying to upgrade the quality of the parks.
"I think if those people who had the vision to set up our park system could see it today, they would weep, and I hope we will be reversing that trend," Mulvey said.
Thirty years ago, Mulvey said, about 30 percent of the county budget was dedicated to parks, compared with about 5 percent today "and it's still going down."
"So what's wrong with this picture?" she said. "Do you think people 30 years ago had nothing to spend their money on except parks? It's a matter of will, I think."
Not taking parks for granted
Baudry said one of the reasons the county will be installing commemorative 100th-anniversary plaques is to remind residents and visitors of the park system's historical importance to the community.
"We want to make sure we leave a little legacy so people understand that this fantastic park system didn't just happen overnight and it will continue as time goes on," he said.
During the summer-long celebration, county officials are hoping more people will take advantage of the parks in their neighborhoods and throughout the area. The idea, Baudry said, is to attract more people because "busy parks are safe parks."
"It really comes down to 'parks are for people' and we're just the stewards of what was passed on to us," Baudry said.
Contact reporter Nan Bialek at (262) 446-6632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than 100 free concerts in Milwaukee County parks are scheduled this summer as part of the 100th birthday celebration of the park system, including concerts in Humboldt, Grant and South Shore parks.
The Humboldt Park Tuesday night Chill on the Hill series features an eclectic mix of musical styles. All concerts at Humboldt Park, 3000 S. Howell Ave., begin at 6:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
• June 12 - West of Rome
• June 19 - Brother Louie
• June 26 - American Legion Band
• July 3 - Yadda Yadda
• July 10 - Mr. Lucky
• July 17 - Big Top Brass
• July 24 - Milwaukee Youth Orchestra (5:30 p.m.) and The Mahp, 6:30 p.m.
• July 31 - Swing of Pearls
• Aug. 7 - American Legion Band
• Aug. 14 - Kal Bergandahl Project
• Aug. 28 - Jason Seed Elixer Ensemble
Grant Park, 100 E. Hawthorne Ave., will offer a Thursday night free concert series. Concerts start at 6:30 p.m.
• June 14 - South Milwaukee Municipal Band
• June 28 - Steve Cohen and Jim Liban
• July 26 - Colin O'Brien Trio
• Aug. 30 - Garlic Mustard Pickers
For a complete listing of free concerts in area parks this summer, visit county.milwaukee.gov.
Park raffle at a glance
The Park People organization is sponsoring a raffle as part of the 100th birthday celebration, with all proceeds dedicated to supporting Milwaukee County Parks. Prizes include:
• Grand prize: a 2007 Harley-Davidson FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic motorcycle
• Second prize: Milwaukee County Parks Individual Passport, which includes an annual pass to all county pools; an annual golf pass to county golf courses; annual admission pass to the Mitchell Park Conservatory; an annual admission pass to Boerner Botanical Gardens; an annual parking pass at Wehr Nature Center; an annual skate pass at Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park; and an annual admission and skate pass at Wilson Ice Arena.
• Third prize: Dinner for 10 at Lake Park Bistro; $1,000 gift certificate to Coast restaurant.
• Fourth prize: A Trek L200 bicycle from Wheel and Sprocket.
Raffle tickets are $5 each and are available during 100th Birthday events and at:
• Parks administration building, 9480 Watertown Plank Rd., Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• all Milwaukee County Parks golf courses
• Boerner Botanical Gardens Gift Shop, 9400 W. Boerner Dr.
• The Domes Gift Shop, 524 S. Layton Blvd.
• Wehr Nature Center Nature Store, 9701 W. College Ave.
• O'Donnell Park Parking Office, 910 E. Michigan St.
• US Bank - 40 Milwaukee County locations
The drawing will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Washington Park band shell, 1859 N. 40th St. Ticket-holders need not be present to win. Winners are responsible for all applicable taxes.
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