PRESS EDITORIAL: A time when parks mean more to us than ever

Several years ago, an alderman bent on privatizing municipal holdings and services declared that the City of Port Washington had too many parks and proposed that some be sold for private development to grow the tax base.

Citizens pushed back, saying in various ways, “Hands off our parks!”

The alderman’s parkland sale notion got zero traction and he was removed from office by voters in the next election.

The parks’ owners—the taxpayers—loved their parks then, and in 2020, which will be known forever as the year of the pandemic, they love them more than ever.

Port Washington parks have never been more popular, valuable and necessary than they are this summer. In amazing numbers, people are spending time in these places whose verdant landscapes, walkways and trails, benches and picnic tables, fishing spots and splendid views of Lake Michigan are free for all to enjoy.

Some of this can be explained by the fact that because of the coronavirus onslaught, such diversions as movies, malls and the usual big-group gatherings of summer are not available, either by necessity or good judgment on the part of people who understand the importance of social distancing disciplines.

But beyond that, it may be that the quiet pleasures of parks are palliatives that offer a measure of relief from the pressures of living in fraught times.

Port Washington’s dazzling quartet of lakefront parks—Upper Lake, Veterans, Rotary and Coal Dock—draw the biggest crowds, understandably, given their maritime vistas, cool breezes and miles of walkways. The former dock on the harbor side of Coal Dock Park, where massive coal freighters once unloaded, has become a veritable promenade for walkers, runners, bikers and even a few skateboarders.

One of the latter was featured in the feel-good story of the summer in last week’s Ozaukee Press. When an 18-year-old fisherman who didn’t know how to swim fell into the harbor and was unable to climb to safety on a damaged ladder, a young man speeding by on his skateboard dove from the dock almost 10 feet above the water and saved the drowning teenager. (Note to city: Please give some attention to the rusty welded steel ladders that date to coal boat days.)

People are also discovering the smaller spaces in the city’s collection of 15 parks, some of which are hidden gems, like Lakeview Park, the tiny, shady overlook on the hill at the corner of Jackson and Milwaukee streets, and Guenther Park in a sylvan corridor beside Valley Creek.

The Ozaukee County parks are experiencing the same surge in visits as the city’s. It is a telling indication of what park visitors appreciate especially during the pandemic year that the most popular among the dozen Ozaukee parks is a nature preserve, the Lion’s Den Gorge, with its rugged terrain, dramatic bluffs, variegated forests and abundant flora.

Even the county’s smallest park, the less than half-acre Harbor View Park one block from the Courthouse in the City of Port Washington, has more visitors than usual.

This newly robust appreciation of parks underscores what enlightened municipal planners have known for generations: Public open spaces that bring people close to nature and foster recreation are essential elements that enhance the quality of community living.

They are not only worth every penny of taxpayer cost for upkeep, but they contribute to economic health by attracting residents, businesses and visitors to communities. In these times, it seems they contribute to human health as well.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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