More than 1,800.
That’s how many signatures were on petitions a group of citizens submitted to the City Council and Milwaukee County Supervisor Pat Jursik last week asking for the Mill Pond to be dredged – returning the waterway to its past glory.
Former Alderwoman Mary Nelson made the presentation to the council, and she offered a few words in support of the effort to restore the Mill Pond. Her message: The pond is an important part of South Milwaukee’s heritage and needs to be dredged so it can be brought back to its former beauty and use as a recreational attraction (including ice skating).
Mayor Tom Zepecki also spoke briefly, saying the city can play a role in doing so, but the Mill Pond is county property, and the county must lead on any improvements – including what could be a $1 million dredging project that may not last a decade.
Jursik’s message to the council: Addressing the Mill Pond is a complex issue – a “community decision” and a “shared responsibility” involving the county, city and others.
She stressed her role in trying to bring units together in the past couple years to deal with the short- and long-term future of the Mill Pond and Oak Creek watercourse – a future that may or may not involve saving the pond, or dredging it. Jursik noted that the Wisconsin Department Natural Resources has an order to remove the dam, but it’s not being acted on it, and the most recent attempt to dredge in the late 1990s was poorly done and did not last long.
A broader watershed plan is necessary, Jursik said, and that’s where the focus should be, as well as with Oak Creek bank restoration. (Jursik has helped secure $267,000 toward this purpose in the county’s current capital budget.)
So, where do I stand? I strongly support restoring the vitality of Oak Creek and the Mill Pond and making it a community attraction once again. It’s not now. The Mill Pond should be a source of South Milwaukee pride. Now, it’s an eyesore, in desperate need of improvement.
I credit the Friends of the Mill Pond and Oak Creek Watercourse for what they’ve done to try and stem the decline and begin restoration efforts. And I thank folks like Mary Nelson and Pat Jursik for driving the dialog here. It’s one we need to have.
But what we need now are facts … a detailed look at options for the Mill Pond and Oak Creek that will help drive decisions around what the solution looks like and who pays for what.
The key question that needs to be answered: What is the collective vision for the Mill Pond and Oak Creek, and how do we get there?
It’s a debate I – and apparently more than 1,800 others — look forward to because something needs to be done. That’s something we can all agree on.
Of course, I’d like to know what you think about this. What role should the city play in making improvements at the Mill Pond? Post your comments below.