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McKinley Beach won't reopen in time for swimming this summer

McKinley Beach
Posted at 5:04 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 18:46:21-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's McKinley Beach will not be open in time for swimmers this summer.

The beach closed in August of 2020 because of multiple drownings, near-drownings, and riptide dangers.

"For $500,000 we can save lives, and I think lives are more important than building and we need something now," Milwaukee County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman said.

During a Parks, Energy, and Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday, the team that studied the beach recommended the best option would be to restore the beach to its intended design put in place in 1989.

At that time, the depth between the two breakwaters was 2.5 feet. However, changing water levels bumped that number up to more than 6 feet by 2020.

Restoring the beach would consist of filling existing scour holes, adding sand, creating dunes at the edges, and performing ongoing maintenance.

"We feel that restoring the beach to its intended design would accomplish the objective of reducing rip currents. There is no solution which completely eliminates them. That's just a fact of hydrodynamics and geography," said Heather Stabo, senior engineer and project manager with SEH which conducted the safety study.

The consultant team said the $500,000 price point is the cheapest and best-performing option, but would take a few months to begin construction.

"Wisconsin has so many wonderful beaches that it's okay," said parent Jenny Carter.

Carter prefers the county to take its time.

"We want to go there to have fun and not have to worry," Carter said.

In the meantime, county supervisors are concerned about safety. Wasserman stressed that he has witnessed people jump the fences to get to McKinley. He wants something done now pending a permanent solution. Specifically, a rope with a net or something similar across the water for people who ignore the closure and find themselves in danger.

"We need the last chance rope," Wasserman said.

Wasserman ended discussion on the item with a call to work on a resolution to come up with emergency funding of $500,000 to support the restoration.

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