The MKE Parks and MKE Plays Stories
MKE Parks, a City of Milwaukee neighborhood park system, provides outdoor play opportunities in over 60 locations across the City of Milwaukee. MKE Parks are funded through the City of Milwaukee and private donations. In collaboration with neighborhood partners, we empower residents to re-create public spaces that reflect local needs, interests, and identity. In doing so, previously underutilized parks are transformed into enriching play environments which provide positive physical, social and economic impact to the areas they serve. All kids deserve quality play opportunities and we work to ensure that is the case in Milwaukee.
The MKE Plays Initiative: Play is an important component of the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual well-being of all people. Parks provide urban residents with opportunities for play. However, without adequate funding for the maintenance of these spaces, and a lack of resident engagement in their design, parks become deteriorated and underutilized.
By 2015, this had become the norm for many Milwaukee parks. They were no longer serving to enhance the quality of life for residents, but rather were burdening them with the violence, substance abuse, and vandalism they attracted.
In response to this growing problem, Milwaukee 10th District Alderman Michael Murphy created the MKE Plays initiative to re-establish parks as a priority for local government and transform the city’s most underutilized parks into enriching play environments. With the help of engaged residents and partner organizations, MKE Plays reconstructed 13 parks over 3 years.
The City of Milwaukee now looks to build on this success and implement the MKE Plays model at 26 parks over the next 6 years, putting the city back on track to sustainable management by 2025. With the continued leadership of Alderman Murphy, we seek to accomplish this vision by:
Matching private contributions with public funds
Involving local residents in the design and construction process
Encouraging the use of innovative park and play features
Activating reconstructed spaces through collaborative programming
Assessing the impacts of program activities on the lives of residents
Gathering park-level data to support efficient and equitable facility management
Restoring these parks brings much-needed improvement - both structural and intrinsic - to many of the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. By creating fun, safe, and attractive places for communities to play, we encourage physical activity, engaged citizenship, and local investment. Involving area residents in the rehabilitation of park space offers further benefits by providing opportunities for people to build relationships and strengthen ownership in their community. This social capital is as much an asset as the necessary financial capital, and is likely to overflow into additional community action. Given their potential, the systematic improvement of Milwaukee parks cannot be underestimated.
The MKE Plays framework represents a new paradigm in the improvement and management of Milwaukee parks. By adopting it as part of the Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, the City of Milwaukee has renewed its commitment to providing park services as part of a larger approach to enhance the quality of living for Milwaukee residents. We now look to secure similar commitment from our private-sector partners, with a goal of raising $8 million over the next 6 years, from 2019-2025.