By Eddee Daniel
If you’ve driven past Pulaski Park lately you might have wondered why it’s fenced off and full of construction equipment. Pulaski Park, which is located at 16th Street and Cleveland Avenue, straddles the Kinnickinnic River. This sad river has been lined with concrete since the 1960s, one of many local waterways that were similarly channelized in an outdated belief it would solve flooding problems.
Today the channeled river seems more like a catastrophe than a solution. While the drastic measure did reduce flooding for a time, it also degraded water quality, destroyed all semblance of wildlife habitat within and along the waterway and increased the threat of drowning. Now, ironically, even the original intent of the channel is no longer effective. The past 50+ years of continued development within the KK watershed has seen the floodplain rise dramatically. That, along with more intense storms and increased rainfall due to climate change has resulted in an increase in flooding.
One of the new solutions to the problem of flooding, along with the man-made problems inherent to concrete channels, is to remove the concrete. This is what is happening in Pulaski Park.
It is just part of a multi-year, multi-pronged approach to stormwater management and river restoration spearheaded by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and Sixteenth Street Community Health Center called the Kinnickinnic River Corridor Neighborhood Plan.
In addition to removing the concrete channel—eventually on several miles of the river from Sixth Street to Jackson Park—the plan involves removing houses from the floodplain, a process I’ve written about previously.
Once the concrete is removed, the watercourse will be widened to slow and accommodate storm water volumes. More natural conditions will also be created, making both the river and the park itself more inviting and safer. The Pulaski Park phase of the project is expected to be completed sometime in 2019.
Eddee Daniel is a Preserve Our Parks board member and project director for A Wealth of Nature.
MMSD is a project partner to A Wealth of Nature.