Beaches filled on Independence Day thanks to Parks Department

MILWAUKEE -- From shore to street, Bradford Beach was packed on the Fourth of July. It's all thanks to the hard work behind the scenes by the Parks Department. 

As the sun rises over Lake Michigan, the County's beach comber is traveling up and down the coast, picking up impediments with a fine toothed comb. 

"It can pick up litter," Guy Smith, Chief of Operations for Milwaukee County Parks said. "It can pick up sticks. It can actually pick up as small as cigarette butts."

Smith says this is just the first of many things the County does to ensure the beach is beautiful. In fact, they have several criteria they have to meet annually to maintain their Blue Wave Certification. 

"We want it to be a destination," Smith said. "It looks like we're on the ocean here. It's really cool. It's a gem."

In order to maintain the certification, the beach needs to stay clean. That means picking up any garbage and litter on the beach but also things you can't necessarily see. The lake is often at risk for higher than normal E. coli levels which can prevent swimmers from taking a dip. 

In order to lower the risk, there are rain gardens which help filter the water but the biggest threat are birds on the beach. They can often be the worst culprit but the County literally has a dog in the fight. 

"[The birds] know the difference," Vanessa Williams with Wild Goose Chase said. "They know when they're being targeted by a true predator and that's her job, to pretend to be that predator."

Williams is referring to her border collie named Bree. They patrol the County's beach for six hours a day looking to humanely scare birds off so they don't contribute to the bacteria in the lake. 

"The gulls have learned over the last decade, this beach is not a safe place for them to hang out during the day," Williams said. "It doesn't take too much convincing anymore for them to leave and learn the dog is here. Time to go." 

In order to stay safe on the water, lifeguards are on duty as well from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day. They get to the beach two hours early to start drills and keep up with their training. 

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