In 1997, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, led by its Executive, Tom Ament, proposed selling the Northeast Quadrant of the Milwaukee County Medical Complex to developers. This area of Wauwatosa, known as the County Grounds, is roughly bounded by Watertown Plank Rd., Hwy 45, Underwood Pkwy and Hoyt Park.


Public outcry calling for preservation of the land quickly3542475747_7b6af8f25f_m
forced the county to call a moratorium on development plans. Ament appointed a 17-member Planning Commission to study the situation and recommend alternative plans for the parcel. Four plans were drawn with varying proportions of development vs. preserved space. After input by stakeholders as well as the public, the concision recommended preserving 235 acres and developing 50 acres along Watertown Plank Rd.


Despite intense pressure from developers and the County
Executive, the County Board narrowly passed the recommended proposal. However, Ament vetoed the proposal, offering one as an alternative that would preserve only 60 acres as a State Forest. Other uses would include increased commercial development, the digging of a 90-acre detention pond system by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and a stadium for Wisconsin Lutheran College.


Spurred by public sentiment, Senator Peggy Rosenzweig and Rep. Scott Walker encouraged the Wis. Dept. of Natural Resources to undertake a feasibility study for creating a State Forest on the land. The DNR decided that as little as 60 or as much as 235 acres could be used for the purpose, with an emphasis on forestry education.


Sensitive to consistent public pressure for preservation, the
Mayor and the Common Council of Wauwatosa, which has zoning jurisdiction of the site, rejected Ament’s plan, favoring instead the creation of a 235-acre State Forest. The Council passed an ordinance establishing a new type of zoning called Conservancy, which could be used to preserve land in the City of Wauwatosa. Still, it has not yet been applied to any of the proposed sites.


In April 2006, MMSD applied to the Wisconsin Department of
Natural Resources for permits to create a flood management project within the County Grounds. The project included the construction of detention basins, affecting 5 acres of wetlands. Construction began in the summer of 2006.

Read Eddee Daniel’s essay about the County Grounds and the development of detention basins.

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