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Kilbourn Reservoir Park Master Plan Revisited

by Jay Kirk

What would you put in a neighborhood park if you had a chance to help design it almost from scratch? That’s the question more than 30 Riverwest residents tried to answer in a meeting held October 9 at Pierce School. They met with Carrie Lewis, Superintendent of the Milwaukee Water Works, and members of Schreiber Anderson Associates, a landscape architecture firm, to help develop a new master plan for the park. An earlier plan was developed with neighborhood input in 2000. Carrie Lewis reported that current analysis by the Water Works indicates that the reservoir will not be needed in the future. If this remains the case, the contents will be drained and the site will require modification. David Schreiber next led the group through a planning process. He listed a number of parameters that the planning activity must accept. Certain facilities or features must be retained, such as the Milwaukee County communications tower, the lower pump house, the obelisk, and the flowered star. Further, the cover of the reservoir must be removed and the reservoir filled in. Items that were to be excluded from the plan were water features and basketball courts. The upper pump house could be relocated and the fence may be removed. Plans must include maintenance, operations, and management. The Water Works will own the land for now. Schreiber encouraged everyone to think broadly and include as many ideas as possible. The group was invited to include in their thinking any facilities that currently exist and any new ones they would suggest. He also asked participants to consider access into the park and circulation within the park. The participants were divided into four planning groups and provided with a map of Reservoir Park and materials to indicate the suggested plans. After the groups completed their work, a member of each group presented the plan developed. All four plans included the notion that Kilbourn and Reservoir Parks should be physically connected in some way. Three of the four groups rerouted North Avenue through a tunnel in the reservoir to accomplish this. One proposal suggested that the tunnel be dug deep under the reservoir. Pedestrian walkways were not to be included in the tunnel. Pedestrians would have several other paths from which to choose. The fourth group suggested a pedestrian bridge over North Avenue. All four groups indicated that some change in the path of North Avenue must be made to reduce the angles of the present route. Pedestrian safety was a concern, but not an overriding one. All four plans recommended retention of the elevation on the south end of the reservoir to maintain the panoramic view provided by this location. All plans also included a reduction in the grade of the reservoir hill on the north end as it approaches Meinecke Street. There were many other suggested enhancements to increase the use of the parks. Most of these involved preparation of areas in which various activities could take place. The ideas included areas for ice-skating and skateboarding; tennis courts; sledding hills; baseball, softball, and soccer fields; a play area for small children; and a dog park. Maintenance of the current walks, stairways, and paths, and the development of others were recommended. Everyone agree that it was important to save the trees in the park. Some spoke up in favor of educational opportunities related to the history of the site, perhaps using some of the reservoir’s limestone. Most agreed that some planning for parking was necessary, perhaps using the current North Avenue and the east end of Garfield Street. These parking areas should not provide through access, but have dead ends and turnarounds. It was suggested that the current maintenance building be retained and renovated for use as a multipurpose building to provide meeting space, storage for maintenance equipment, and a heated bathroom for year-round use. Also, the group strongly recommended the preservation and maintenance of the charming brick structure located near the tot play area on Meinecke. Another meeting is planned at the COA on November 20 at which an update on the plans developed in light of the given parameters and the neighborhood suggestions will be presented. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 10 – November
by Jay Kirk