Last month, Milwaukee Recreation was honored by the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (WiASLA) for work associated with its Dream Build Play initiative, which is transforming Milwaukee’s outdoor recreation landscape. The Merit Award recognized Milwaukee Recreation’s Equity Prioritization plan, while the Burnham Playfield renovation and Green Bay Playfield renovation received the Award of Excellence and Honor Award, respectively.
Milwaukee Recreation operates 52 playfields across the city of Milwaukee. The majority of these playfields were constructed in the first half of the 20th century. With no major upgrades in the past 50-plus years, time and use have taken their toll. Following a comprehensive assessment of all locations in 2014, it was determined that more than 60 percent of sites were in fair to poor condition and no longer met the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.
In 2016, Milwaukee Recreation developed a data-focused Equity Prioritization Model to highlight systemically disinvested communities, framing racial and economic inequity as drivers of where playfield investments should be directed. The rating system for the playfields uses a set of criteria, which includes a combination of neighborhood and population characteristics, as well as a facility condition score. A total of eight quantifiable criteria provide an equity prioritization index value for each playfield. Those identified as ‘most in need’ have been the priority projects for reconstruction.
The renovation of Burnham Playfield (1755 S. 32nd St.) was completed in the summer of 2022 and included the removal of asphalt paving, the planting of shade trees, and installation of a new synthetic turf soccer field, walking paths, a new playground, and basketball courts. The wading pool at the playfield was also converted into a user-operated splash pad. Following the grand reopening, the playfield is now a bustling, dynamic, recreation area for the community.
In the fall of 2022, Green Bay Playfield (3818 N. 8th St.) underwent a comprehensive renovation which included new basketball courts, tennis courts, a splash pad, upgraded playground equipment, an obstacle course, shade structures, painted play activities, a kickball and football field, new lighting and seating, an outdoor classroom, increased green space, and more. Not only does the renovated site provide significantly more useable park space, it is now filled with quality and accessible programming elements.
Since 2019, a total of seven playfields have been fully renovated through an investment of more than $12.4-million. The redeveloped playfields provide opportunities for play, public gathering, and free summer playground programming while featuring a greener, shadier, and more inviting destination for all members of the community. With an additional eight playfields currently in the community engagement, design, or construction phase, Milwaukee Recreation remains committed to improving the outdoor recreation landscape in our city, one playfield at a time, particularly in the places that need it most.