Seeking Solutions to Bender Park Problems
As Oak Creek's lakefront park continues to battle problems with its boat launch and beach, Milwaukee County and city officials are making progress on fixes.
The problems at Oak Creek's Bender Park, in an otherwise gorgeous setting on the banks of Lake Michigan, have been aplenty over the past few years.
The beach has been plagued by algae, e-coli and noxious odors and was closed for large parts of a blazing-hot summer last year. Boaters, meanwhile, have found it difficult to access the lake due to low water levels.
City officials say the problems have the attention of Milwaukee County.
The county is committing $150,000 to dredge the Bender Park harbor this spring while they plan a long-term solution, said Alderman Mike Toman, whose district encompasses the park.
The dredging is expected to be completed by May 1. Dredging was supposed to be done last year, too, but was never completed, Toman said. County officials have asssured Oak Creek that won't be the case this year and want to allocate money for dredging each year.
The long-term plan entails constructing a concrete, flat surface holding a crane with a 90-foot reach that will keep the harbor entrance open at all times.
County officials have also told the city they will look into the problems at the beach. The beach has also been aided by volunteer groups like the Kiwanis Club, which help clean up the area.
"It was a good response and a good commitment from the county," City Administrator Gerald Peterson said. "We've got a good cooperative relationship with them and we're trying to see if we can't work on some programs together."
The problems aren't unique to Bender Park. Many beaches and boat launches along the Milwaukee-area shoreline are battling similar difficulties, with Lake Michigan water levels reaching its lowest point in years.
"It should be noted that we're not just dealing with a county neglect problem ... we're dealing with a Mother Nature problem," Toman said.
The solutions aren't easy, and in some cases not financially practical. A permanent fix at the boat launch, for example, has a price tag of some $5 million and is not seen as feasible.
However, Toman and others said they were encouraged after a meeting Monday with Milwaukee County Interim Parks Director Jim Keegan and County Supervisor Steve Taylor.
"We got some definitive answers," he said.