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Milwaukee County Boat Launch Ramps: Highest Price & Worst Condition in Wisconsin

7/10/20 @ 2:10 PM
User since 5/14/17

Every launch ramp user in Wisconsin is affected by the TERRIBLE mismanagement of the Milwaukee County boat launch ramps by the Milwaukee County Parks department for the past 30+ years. Why? There is a genuine scorn for boaters who use these ramps at all levels of Milwaukee County government; from the idiot County Executive, to the many clueless County Supervisors, to most of the management level personnel in the County Parks department. 

Milwaukee County launch fees are the HIGHEST in Wisconsin, yet Milwaukee County refuses to follow state law requiring them to provide even the most basic launch ramp services that they agreed to provide in order to charge these fees.

In 2017, Milwaukee County received a state WaterWays grant of nearly 1 million dollars to remodel the South Shore boat launch ramp. WaterWays grants are 50/50 grants, where Milwaukee County was supposed to kick in 1 million as well. Not what happened. Project stopped when the WaterWays monies ran out. Even worse, 95% of the money was NOT spent on launch ramp improvement. WDNR is supposed to monitor this, they allowed Milwaukee County to spend the money on renovating the parking lot, most of which is not used for trailer parking, construction of a pretty walk-way with bio-swales-a wet dream for tree huggers. The launch ramp itself was untouched, with the exception of installation of drain grates that filled up with sand in 2 weeks and have never been unclogged.

WaterWays grants monies are generated through federal excise taxes paid by manufacturers of boating and fishing equipment. When Milwaukee County gets a 1 million dollar grant, and then uses it for everything BUT improving the launch ramp, that means a dozen small communities across Wisconsin do not get grants to build or improve their launch ramps.

In the most populous area of Wisconsin, with a world class Lake Michigan fishery, the 2 operational Milwaukee County boat launch ramps are the worst facilities on the west shore of Lake Michigan. (There is one small ramp in the heart of gang-land Milwaukee-50% chance of your car being there when you come back from fishing) 

On weekends, McKinley Marina launch ramp parking is often filled by 4:30AM. Nearly 20 trailer parking spaces are lost due to a construction company parking equipment there long-term and leaving piles of landscaping materials there. This company has done no work there in nearly 3 months but is using the trailer parking lot as a storage facility.

Milwaukee County Parks has CLOSED the South Shore launch ramp after spending all that WaterWays grant money in 2017 to renovate everything but the launch ramp. Worse yet is that piss-poor engineering for that renovation has caused a massive sand deposition problem in the launch ramps that requires weekly sand removal by Milwaukee County. Even when the ramp was open last summer, it would frequently be so clogged with sand that tow vehicles were getting stuck all the time. 

This is the same lousy engineering that screwed up the design of Bender Park launch in the 1990's. There is a high level of arrogance among the engineering teams who work for Milwaukee County. No one is going to tell them anything-after all, they have a DEGREE! Before Bender Park launch ramp was built, Milwaukee County was warned that the design would result in rapid sand build-up necessitating regular dredging. 

The high water and broken down outer break wall necessitated the closing of South Shore launch ramps this year. If the launch piers had been installed, they would have been completely destroyed during high NE winds in an early June storm. 

I feel it is important for EVERY launch ramp user in Wisconsin, especially those of us who use Milwaukee County launch ramps to keep the heat on government officials who are charging us high launch ramp fees and not providing the maintenance or services that those high fees require.

In it's yearly launch ramp operations form that it files with WDNR, Milwaukee County Parks department certifies that:

1. An attendant is staffed at each launch ramp during normal hours of operation. 

2. Restroom facilities are open for launch ramp users when fees are being charged.

3. The launch facilities are deep water Great Lakes facilities capable of launching larger boats.

4. Other amenities such as boat washes & fish cleaning facilities are available to launch ramp users. 

Laughing yet??? It's no joke. Milwaukee County charges for everything it can, but provides the most minimal services possible. Why? Nobody in the WDNR will enforce the laws. If this continues to be allowed in Milwaukee County, boat launch users around Wisconsin will see higher fees and less services as well.

Though a HUGE revenue producer for Milwaukee County ($250,000+), the top echelon of Parks department managers views boaters with scorn. It took nearly a month of phone calls and emails to get a Porta Jon put back at Bender launch, though every golf course and dog park has at least 2. 

The only way for Milwaukee County boat launch ramps to improve is for users themselves to complain, complain, and complain to Milwaukee County Executive & Milwaukee County Supervisors about the conditions at the launch ramps. Until there is some real heat on the Parks department to provide the services it charges every launch ramp user, top level Parks department managers will continue to make launch ramp operations a VERY LOW priority in staffing and maintenance operations.

7/11/20 @ 1:11 PM
User since 12/26/10

I wish I had a dollar for every propeller destroyed at Grant Park.For as long as that park was a boat landing,it was pretty much a dysfunctional $hitshow.

OP is absolutely correct,been that way forever!

7/11/20 @ 12:09 PM
Team Lamboat
Team Lamboat
User since 8/14/11

You have a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist there at the MJS. Maybe Raquel Rutledge would be interested in doing a piece on it?  Her piece on abuse in the Managed Forest Land program and lack of maps available to the general public forced the DNR to put them online instead of having to pay for photocopies.  Send her your info and see if she thinks its worth an expose.  Worth a shot.

7/11/20 @ 11:58 AM
User since 6/1/09

Expertly said,Milwaukee Doesnt give a dam about us RICH FISHERMEN! They will take care if their MILLIONAIRE YACHT CLUBS, trolly to no ware,and dumping money in their garbage dump River way. But developing useable ,accessible ,launch points for boaters will NEVER HAPPEN !

7/10/20 @ 7:12 PM
MEMBER since 6/15/01

I have no way to verify your comments FishOn, but they have a ring of truth, and frankly, unsurprisingly believable.

This is the kind of stuff that needs to get widespread publishing... it is corruption, and the kind that gets people voted out of office, or worse

appreciate what it must have taken to research all of that!

7/10/20 @ 5:56 PM
User since 6/30/08

Touche, Fish on!  Excellent post!

Would you mind if I copied this to the Milwaukee Lake Michigan Fishing Reports, page, on Facebook?

7/10/20 @ 3:54 PM
User since 7/5/11

262 Fishing, of course the original post is editorial in nature, but never before has that stopped the MKE J.S. from printing anything as news.

7/10/20 @ 3:42 PM
262 Fishing
262 Fishing
User since 8/10/18

Superbly written. Could even take it a step further and go to each and every public launch and document what you see and what needs improvement. Could also compare to Ozaukee and Racine launches. Would give more evidence and weight to the article.  Right now, it sounds somewhat editorial to me. Take it to the next level and you have an investigatory piece.

7/10/20 @ 3:15 PM
User since 7/5/11

That is a great article you wrote and I can totally appreciate what you are saying. You should submit that to the MKE J.S. news media outlet, and not as an editorial. You got skill. 

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