By Jim Ciha and Jim Price
Milwaukee County's Kohl Park is a partnership with local scout troops and other volunteers.
Designated in 2009
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in the NRT Database
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The Milwaukee County Parks Department acquired 200 acres in 1980, 70 more acres in 2004, with the end result being Kohl Park, the newest park in the system. There is a friends group associated with the 270-acre park as well as the Granville Business Improvement District.
Both organizations are interested in supporting the protection of green space and recreational opportunities within the park. In recent years with the budget cuts, the overall master plan has not been implemented due to lack of funding.
In 2006, the Parks Department entered into a fantastic partnership with the Student Conservation Association, the Workforce Investment Board, and Johnson Controls to form the Milwaukee Conservation Leadership Corps. In its first year we had 40 high school students and 8 adult crew leaders. For many students this was the first time they had a job, worked in or experienced their parks. Kohl Park was one of the first locations for these crews to work.
The Corps cleared approximately two miles of trail the first year, created rudimentary stairs, and wood chipped trails. The next two years the crews expanded in size and the expertise has grown as well. I would also say that the excitement and sense of accomplishment of the crew-members has increased too. Now there are drainage structures built into the trail, a stairway at the trailhead entrance, and trailhead signage at multiple points. Local residents of all ages have discovered the trails that traverse through the park regularly.
A couple of scout troops have helped improve the trail system as well. Younger scouts have helped pick garlic mustard, control invasive plants, and spread wood chips. An Eagle Scout has built and installed 5 Aldo Leopold style benches and two trailhead informational kiosks. Local residents have also volunteered to help keep the park litter free.
All of these examples above show how much community involvement has been crucial to the development of the park and the trail system. Community efforts combined with Parks personnel have proven to be a cost-effective way to develop and manage the park absent direct funding.
This park is a welcome refuge in a densely populated area in northwest Milwaukee County. The location of the park is also significant because there is a several hundred-acre nature preserve located directly across the road in Ozaukee County and one nature trail connects the two parcels.
Next year a multiple use paved trail will connect the two properties offering access to bicyclists and other trail users. Our long-term plans include a segment of the 108-mile Oak Leaf Trail making connections to the area neighborhoods and the multi-use trail.
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