Paid parking proposal at Milwaukee County parks faces fierce opposition

Fees could be up to $3.55 an hour

MILWAUKEE - Next time you visit one of the Milwaukee County parks you may be opening your wallet to park.

The county could begin collecting parking fees in April, but lots of residents say not so fast.

Right now it's free to park your car at Bradford Beach or at any other Milwaukee County park, but a plan to charge up to $3.50 an hour has plenty local residents pumping the brakes.

Watching the waves crash at Bradford Beach is a daily routine for Kevin Keefe.

"Why live in Milwaukee if you don't live near Lake Michigan, that's kind of the way I look at it," he said.

It's a free activity that could soon cost him by the hour.

"I really don't like it," Keefe said.

Parking fees at Milwaukee County parks are expected to generate $1.6 million this year.

"Some people just can afford to come down and enjoy this lakefront for instance and pay $3.50 an hour," Keefe said.

Keefe isn't the only one opposing the county revenue booster. More than a dozen residents blasted the plan Tuesday morning in front of Milwaukee County supervisors.

"Not a single solitary constituent of mine is in favor of this," said supervisor Dan Sebring.

"It's not as simple as just, don't do this," responded Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.

Abele proposes to hire a private company to operate the fee system at most county parks and along Lincoln Memorial Drive. Despite fierce opposition, Abele said if this plan falls through, that $1.6 million would have to come from elsewhere.

"Whether or not paid parking is a perfect solution, we need to either come up with cuts in services which you're also going to get people here to speak up for raises in fees or revenues in something," Abele said.

Some residents say they'd rather pay an annual parks admission fee or see their property taxes go up than pay each time they visit a park.

"Ask me for a dollar," said county resident Roz Tornatore. "I'll give you a dollar every month for the parks."

There will be a public hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Mitchell Park Domes. Everyone will be given an opportunity to share their stance.

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