Monday, March 9, 2009

Open letter to Milwaukee County officials

A neighbor on the river sent this to me- I thought it summed up eloquently what a lot of people are thinking. She graciously said I could quote her here:
"On Mother's Day in 1997 I saw a cottage for sale in Glendale on the Milwaukee River. The balance of urban life in a setting of trees, river, and wildlife was the life I sought. Over the past 11 years, I have restored and improved my property, and after a day's work I would enjoy a rest down at the river, waving at the boaters and sharing a quick hello. Over the years I have noticed a doubling of the boaters and paddlers. I watched the river rise during storms and shrivel during droughts. I have marveled at the ducklings in spring, the geese in fall, and thrilled to see the herons. I have engaged in the life cycle of the river, supported and enhanced by the Estabrook Dam.
Prior to moving here, I lived on/near the Milwaukee River north of the North Avenue Dam.
There, too, as I was working on my property, I would hear the crew boats coming down the river. Shorewood had built a boat house for them and they practiced every Saturday. Then one day the river was gone. The dam had been removed (it seemed overnight and with no notice) and the mighty river and the community it supported became a muddy ugly stream. To this day it is still a diminished river, unapproachable, and abandoned.
I am telling you these personal stories as I understand that a similiar process is being
advocated for the Estabrook Dam. I have gone to the meetings, and read the report prepared by the Riverkeepers. I wonder who funds the Riverkeepers, with their executive director, newsletters, offices, and 14 page reports. I don't recall electing these people to represent me. I do recall electing county supervisors. I rely on the elected officials to provide a balance to the debates remembering the local paying public who is funding these debates and the managent of this resource.
I do know two things. My property value will go down along with the dimise of the river from its current glory. A respected real estate agent in the Glendale community has predicted the home values will diminish by 50%. Between what you are being asked to do and what Wall Street has already done, I will become part of the problem facing our country. My house could be worth less than I owe.
I have also looked at the pictures provided by Riverkeepers of other 'improvement projects' on dams in this area and in Wisconsin. What happened at North Ave was not a rare instance. The rivers become a sad trickle overgrown with vegetation and no longer serving it's urban purpose. Natural river streams are appropriate in many areas. But in an urban area a river serves many functions, including accessability and recreation. It should not be a backwater which has lost its full usefulness.
Much is being said about the other citizens in Milwaukee. That fish and fishermen have rights. That people need to walk along rivers. That the homeowners are single minded, only worrying about their land. However there are three parks which border this river under consideration and are open to any citizen who wishes to picnic or fish. The new aquatic center [in Lincoln Park] was not planned to be along side a muddy stream. And finally, I am very tired of being taxed when you want my money and then ignored. Taxed and ignored."

Photo of blue heron having a dinner , Tennessee Valley, California, by Mila Zinkova

1 comment:

Christine said...

River Otter;
You have a great blog and as a fellow riverfront resident (to your north) I couldn't agree more with the points you make regarding the loss of potential for Lincoln Park and the lack of real planning that seems to be moving toward the dam removal. Very sad that the DNR has been incapable of rendering any creative workable solutions for both cleaning up that area of the river and maintaining a wonderful urban resource. Maybe with continued involvement of all interested parties we will work toward a more shared solution. Thanks for your words.