Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has spent the last few months selling citizens on the idea of paid parking in Milwaukee County Parks. The parks need revenue to operate, Abele has argued, and budget cuts from the County Board and less shared revenue from the state have made paid parking a sad necessity. Unless you’re down for slashing services and programs—and since you weren’t down for that wheel tax increase—get ready to pony up anywhere between $1 and $2.50 per hour to let your kid run around Lake Park for the afternoon. The plan, which was expected to bring in $1.6 million, was included in the County’s 2018 budget.

Well, following some contentious public meetings, Abele has killed that plan. Thanks to some “rainy day” cash, the resulting $1.6 million hole will be filled, and free parking will remain in Milwaukee County parks. For now. Here’s Abele’s press release, issued today:

Today, I’m asking the County Board to discontinue the Pay to Park program that was included in the 2018 budget, and use instead the County’s “rainy day” contingency fund to fully fund our Parks Department for this year.

We asked for public input in order to better understand how people feel about this new dedicated revenue stream to the parks system. I said from the beginning that charging for parking in the parks is not something that I prefer.

I am pleased that we will be able to avoid charging visitors from paying to park their vehicles this year. But I must caution that this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Aside from rainy day funds, other difficult options we had to consider were increasing the vehicle registration fee $5 per year or dramatic, widespread closures across our Parks system.

With no good options, I’m asking the County Board for this temporary fix, while we work together to plan for other alternatives in next year’s budget.

To email your County Supervisor and share your thoughts on this important issue, please enter your address here.

Thank you,
Chris Abele

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Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.