Several neighbors in the Sherman Park area are calling for Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to stop closing the park at 6 p.m. every night.
The early closure is not sitting well with County Executive Chris Abele and State Rep. David Bowen.
Every other park in the county closes at 10:00 p.m., but following the violence that unfolded earlier this month in and around the park, Sheriff Clarke ordered the park be closed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. indefinitely.
Bowen grew up in the Sherman Park neighborhood. It hurts him to see this once peaceful and family-oriented park become surrounded by orange fences to keep people out.
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"It's time to start rebuilding our community and reconnecting our community," he said. "It's hard to do that past orange tape."
The park is home to one of Milwaukee's Boys and Girls Clubs, along with parents like Leann Wohner who take their children to play here.
"I think they should keep it open past 6 p.m. if their parents are here," Wohner said. "I think the tape should come down."
Bowen says 6 p.m. is too early for a park to close, especially during the summer.
"It's important that we recognize the fact that from 6 to 8:30 p.m. it's still daylight," he said. "Where are those young people now going? They're not going to this park now that it is closed. They are going back on the streets and we don't know what they are doing."
Park visitors like James Dunlap agree with Bowen.
"I think the more opportunity that kids have to occupy their time and use their time in a positive way, the less chance of them getting into trouble," Dunlap said.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele believes the 6 p.m. closing time should be lifted too, but ultimately has no authority to make the change.
"I think it's counterproductive and sends the wrong message and it isn't the way you bring people back together," Abele said.
Abele sent the following email to Sheriff David Clarke:
Sheriff Clarke,I'm writing to ask that you remove the 6PM park closure mandate at Sherman Park and remove the snow fencing. I have heard from both the Police Chief and the Mayor and I share their opinion that it is overly restrictive and unnecessarily impedes public access to both the park and the Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club. We all share a concern for public safety, but I find Chief Flynn's assessment of taking down these barriers as the best step toward community harmony.Nothing about removing the 6PM park closure prevents re-implementing it later, should that be warranted. In the meantime, barring an on-going or imminent emergency, our parks and the Clubs should be easily accessible to the public. The closure that you have enforced and the orange snow fencing that you have set up could be interpreted as battlements to the law-abiding public.Alternately, if you have some suspicious activity, intelligence, or significant open source information that indicates looming threats that specifically warrant this type of continuing restriction, please share with MPD and the Parks Department.I completely agree with you that public safety is of utmost importance, tempered with measured balance. I also agree with you on maintaining a deputy presence, given your parks patrol function.MPD and Parks are closely coordinating activities and your guiding standards on restricting access and plans for returning the park to normal operations are imperative to their operations, yet remain unknown. We all represent public entities paid for by the taxpayers and we deliver public safety most effectively when we can coordinate. The citizens of Milwaukee County deserve no less than total transparency from their elected officials. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.Finally, I want to thank your excellent deputies who have stepped up during this difficult time in Milwaukee and I look forward to continuing the collaborative relationship we've had with them.Sincerely,Chris Abele
Representative Bowen said several evening events and activities in the park cannot take place because of the 6 p.m. closure.
We asked the Sheriff's Office when Sheriff Clarke might consider removing that restriction. Instead, his spokesperson sent us the following statement:
"The nighttime closure will continue until further notice, per order of Sheriff David Clarke," spokeswoman Frances McLaughlin said.
Abele says Clarke has not responded to his email.
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