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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.

Dennis Wink March 20, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Well I have seen the piers laying in the area rotting away for two years. They say they were suppose to dredge last year,but never did. They charged the boaters and fishermen the launch fee though. Talk is cheap. It took me several months,complaining on the Parks facebook page to finall;y get The American Flag to fly over the blue waters of Bender Park again. Must not have had enough money in the budget for that either. Could it be we are way to far south,to count?
john kansam March 21, 2013 at 12:07 PM
It is a shame how this park has been ignored by our "Gold Medal Award Winning" park system. It used to be ringed with nice piers that you could fish off of. Now they all lay rotting in the parking lot. The beach is half fenced off since 2010. It has become overrun by hoodlums. A place for them to drink and do burners in their cars. We have already lost South Shore and Grant Parks to these people. Now we are losing Bender(the southern-most park in the county) to these people too. Shame
Perry J. Schneeberg March 21, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Spending $100s of thousands every year and having a concrete pathway with a permanent crane is a joke, fix it right one time and be done.
Resident of O.C. Paul March 21, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Well, Bender park is under the jurisdiction of the Milwaukee County Parks System, even though it lies within the Oak Creek City Limits. But seriously, I am getting sick and tired of every body in government saying "it's not in our jurisdiction, so it's not ours to worry about". Somebody has to pay for it, and seeing that governments are funded through TAX DOLLARS, the people are ultimately going to pay for any improvements regardless of whether they are under the jurisdiction of the city, county, state, or federal government... Some one has to take the bull by the horns, and take care of the EYESORES... Just like 13th street, all the years that that street has been forgotten about by the county, the City of Oak Creek should have just stepped in and taken care of the repaving seeing that 13th street runs through Oak Creek, and is as much a part of Oak Creek as it is Milwaukee County. Also, seeing that these projects are being done with tax payer money, they should be done cost effectively, to a high standard of quality, and in a timely manner; seeing that the people are ultimately paying the bill. Governments arguing like little children over who is going to do what, when the people are ultimately going to pay for it in the end anyways... seriously (rolls eyes)...
Dan Vitek March 21, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Lets face it we had a county supervisor who was a no show and being on the south side of the county we do not count ,if this was the north shore it would be all niece and tiddy and and we would concrete rds instad of a pot hole with some asphalt it like 13 st.
vocal local 1 March 21, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Wheres the Marina? What definitive answers did Toman get? Why aren't plans made public?
Tim March 22, 2013 at 04:18 AM
I get a kick out of how people whine and complain about subjects not even related to Bender Park.....13th street???? Get real, go complain somewhere else about that crap. I know 13th is shot, so does everyone else....but don't whine about it here. Re-read the title......BENDER PARK.....not 13th street. As far as Bender park goes.......it was a simple solution would they have done it right the first time. A friend of mine lives on Tichigan Lake, only it was a bay of Tichigan off the Fox River. The residents paid to dredge the bay a couple times only to have it fill in with silt from the river within 2 years. They were given the option of putting in a culvert under a peninsula. The idea was the flow of the river would partly travel through the culvert and naturally wash the silt through and keep the bay at the normal depths. Same goes for the harbor at Bender Park. If they installed a 36"-48" pipe under the rocks where the flagpole is located, the natural southernly current of the lake as well as when the lake churns up from a Northeast wind should push the silt out from the mouth of the harbor. As it sit now, the current and dominating wind push silt around the breakwall and back into the mouth of the harbor. Typical the county wants to put a dredger fulltime there. Get thy cranium out of thy sphincter and use common sense when tackling this crap. You heard it here...and no 6 figure salary spent on a college degree to figure that out. 13th Street? Take a hike!
Resident of O.C. Paul March 25, 2013 at 02:12 PM
And what does Tichigan Lake have to do with this? All I was pointing out was that the city of Oak Creek is taking on a project that is NOT within their jurisdiction, and that if they were sticking their nose into Bender Park that they should also stick their nose into other areas... areas that are more important than a park that is not heavily utilized.
Jon April 24, 2013 at 03:38 AM
Tim is right. Water is the most powerful source able to move anything. Use it. That's what he was getting at Paul.

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