Park People Timeline– 1990s


Mary Kamps serves as President.



Park People send Board member M. Harvey to help start a Friends group at Riverside Park, the future Urban Ecology Center, with a start-up donation of $1,000.



Margarete Harvey is hired part time to raise money for the gardens on the top deck of the O’Donnell Park parking structure by selling named bricks. A crew of 50 + volunteers help to man a booth for the sale of bricks and PP memberships at public events (summer) and in public buildings (winter).

Robert Cowan serves as President. Retired in 1994 and later given honor of Directors Emeritus.

Nancy Cavanaugh retires. Cites as accomplishments: Preserving and advocating for parks; Restoring and promoting the educational potential of Trimborn Farms; Fund-raising funds for O’Donnell Park; Encouraging and negotiating for volunteer activity, such as Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful, Sack-It-To-Me Annual Clean up (now turned over to the City); Renovating Ross Overnight Lodge in Whitnall Park.



Kathy Arciszewski is hired to organize the educational program at Trimborn Farm.

Nancy Kavanaugh retires, and Vell Moder becomes Executive Director.



Margarete Harvey serves as President.

100 year anniversary for Lake Park is a huge celebration. Park People collect signatures against the sale of park land as proposed by County Executive. Lake Park Friends formed.

Park People hold regular quarterly meetings with 4 partner groups to exchange information on programs, funding and sometime invite each other’s members to events (Friends of Boerner, Friends of the Domes, Wehr Nature Center, Riverside Nature Center ).



Park People prevent the water lily pond at Humboldt Park from being filled in like the sunken garden at the Mitchell Park Domes. The pond was dredged, the water lilies overwintered, and new landscaping installed with funds raised by a “Walk for Waterlilies” at Humboldt Park. Lois Rehberg, granddaughter of the original designer of the pond, is present for the opening.

Weed Out! Weed Out got its start in 1995 when The Park People President Margarete Harvey met dedicated amateur naturalist Dr. Ken Solis, who had surveyed 25 area parks to publish an educational brochure about invasive plants and trees. Ken asked The Park People to help him convince the County Parks Department that aggressive non-native, invasive plants and trees were rapidly overrunning and degrading natural areas in our parks. In October 1995, Ken became the Chair of our newly-created Environmental Committee and immediately created our Weed Out program. The Park People established an agreement with AFSCME Local 882 to allow our volunteer “Weed Out Warriors” to take the maintenance of high-quality natural areas in the parks into their own hands.

First Park People Antique Show is a financial success.

Park People president, Margarete Harvey, serves on the Committee for the 21st century, appointed by County Exec Tom Ament, where she points out the value of volunteers and the risks in privatization of parks.

TPP discovers the Milwaukee County Parks Department is establishing its own Parks Foundation to the dismay of the Park People since it will be in direct competition with the Park People. The foundation’s mission will be to Enhance the Milwaukee County Park System. The foundation was created to help raise money for projects that exceed the parks department’s financial constraints.



First WEED-OUT in 4 Milwaukee County Parks: Lake Park, Jacobus Park, Kletsch Park and Whitnall Park (volunteers not welcome at Boerner Botanical Gardens).

Funding for the first three years was received from a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Urban Forestry grant as part of a new effort to preserve urban forests. Since then, major funds for this initiative have been received from The Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation, Masterlock, Milwaukee Park Enhancement Fund, REI and others. Donors have also stepped forward with gloves, loppers and printed materials.

Park People leases Trimborn Farm from the County and rents the farm house.

Diane Buck serves as President.

Parks Department starts their own Milwaukee County Parks Foundation to raise funds for the parks with their own 501(c)3 status, with Dave O’Neil, development manager to set it up and a 15 member board of directors. Independent of the Parks Department but Tom Ament, Sue Baldwin and Shelia Aldrich to be ex officio board members. Not to be a membership organization, so as not to compete with the Friends Group.

TPP rallies community to be educated on pending removal of City Deed restrictions which would impact Parks. There were 31 parks that were part of a group parks handed over from City to County in 1936 and 1937. City deed restrictions imposed at that time required that the parks must remain parks forever and could not be transferred to other parties. TPP maintain despite the best interests of the county official, removal of the restriction sets a dangerous precedent, making it easier for future county officials who might be facing tougher economic times to give into the temptation of liquidating some of the county’s most valuable assets in order to pay the bills.

Board works on a policy to have segregated funds for money raised for the park system or specific parks to add an administrative fee and discusses what the fee should be and agrees this would only apply to future funds raised and to set up an Operating Fund. Also commits to more transparent presentation of the financial statements



Office moved to O’Donnell Park

WEED-OUT in 6 parks.

Received state Historical Society of Wisconsin Preservation Certificate for “restoration work at the pre-Civil War Trimborn Farm Park”, Trimborn Farms project then moved over to Historical Society. The Trimborn Farms project was a major source of funds for The Park People.

After 14 years as Executive Director Vell Moder retires at an emotional party held at Wehr Nature Center.

New Friends Group – Friends of Lake Park.

Funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Park People implemented a project to research the history of Milwaukee County parks and examine current issues and challenges surrounding the parks today. Oral history interviews we were conducted with past policy makers and those connected with county government. Interviewees included:

  • Bill O’Donnell, county board member from 1948 to 1976 and Milwaukee County executive from 1976 to 1985;
  • Bob Mikula, landscape architect and director of Milwaukee County parks until his retirement in 1986;
  • Kurt Bauer, director of the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) from 1961 to 1997;
  • Avery Wittenberger, Milwaukee Journal reporter for 35 years;
  • David Schultz, former Milwaukee County executive;
  • Don Turek, executive director of the War Memorial from 1957 to 1996;
  • Norman Gill, longtime head of the Citizen Governmental Research Bureau (now the Public Policy Forum);
  • Don Weber, county board member from 1960 to 1966 and assistant to County Executives John Doyne and Bill O’Donnell;
  • George Donovan, former member of the Park Commission;
  • Fred Tabak, county board supervisor; and
  • Joy Teschner, founder of the Park People and former member of the Milwaukee County Park Commission, the Ozaukee County Board, and the Mequon City Council.

Strategic Plan Adopts:

  • Vision: We believe that parks are vital for everyone’s quality of life
  • Mission: Citizen stewardship of Milwaukee County Parks
  • Goals and Objectives:
    • To preserve open green space and original vision and integrity of park system to serve present and future generations
      • By monitoring public park policies
      • By establishing and communication selected positions on issues concerning Milwaukee County Parks
      • By documenting park history and disseminating the heritage of the parks
    • To support, as advocates for the parks, adequate funding and greater public awareness and appreciation
      • By supporting projects, programs and educational activities
      • By raising and managing funds
    • To enhance park lands, though improvements including new facilities and vegetation and beautification
      • By understanding specific capital improvements, as well as facilities and vegetation maintenance programs
      • By encouraging appropriate use of parks
      • By helping to create and coordinate park support groups
    • To build an effective citizen support group
      • By recruiting members
      • By keeping members informed
      • By encouraging volunteerism
      • By improving Park People’s image and visibility in the community
    • All of the above goals and objectives will be achieved by working cooperatively with and in support of the County Legislature, the County Administration, the Parks Department and the Parks Foundation to the extent that their work is consistent with the basic mission of The Park People.

Oral History Recaps

  • Joy Teschner– Founder of TPP: Had attended a national park organization meeting and heard about Denver’s friends of the Parks group called The Park People. She liked the idea and the name and the Denver group let her use the name for a five dollar fee. She established “The Park People” in 1977 while still on the Park Commission which lasted awhile longer but “they didn’t do anything. They didn’t have significant really.” Teschner envisioned TPP as a group of citizens from around the county who were concerned with parks and natural areas. The group could use the force of numbers to have influence with government. Teschner wanted to set up an umbrella group in individual parks. However, after setting these groups up, many of the groups broke away from TPP to be their own group. “This was not my idea of what I wanted them to do but everybody else wanted it so that is what has happened.”
  • William O’Donnell– Former County Supervisor and County Executive: “The park system has become more political with the dismantling of the Park Commission which is more realistic and more in step with the rest of the county’s system.”
  • Robert Mikula– Parks General Manager: “When the Park Commission existed, it was the prime-stop gap between the politicians and the Park Department, and the Commission spoke for the parks. He hoped TPP “would be the voice of the people for parks, yet it has not authority or power.” He further stated he does not think the era of a powerful and effective park advocates in the Park Commission will ever return.
  • Dave Schultz– Former Parks Director: Schultz saw TPP and various friends of the parks as being useful adjuncts to the park system. These groups could be used to raise money and carry out functions which he did not want public employees to perform, however, he realized there were issues with volunteers and Unions.



Judith Lindquist takes over as Executive Director

Park People Volunteer of the Year Award initiated. Margarete Harvey first recipient.

The Park People Provided nearly 20,000 volunteer hours and raised more than $300,000 to benefit the parks in 1998. Besides initiating the popular Weed-Outs with more than 1,000 volunteers pulling invasive plants, the Park People provide the impetus for the formation of other partner groups including Lake Park Friends, Riverside Environmental Center and Friends of Wehr Nature Center.

Advocates against lakefront development for Great Lakes Development.

Jan Grosenick serves as President.

On May 14, 1998, the Park People of Milwaukee County, with the financial support of the Wisconsin Humanities Council and the cooperation of the League of Women Voters, sponsored a symposium on Milwaukee County Parks. Held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) Golda Meir Library, the forum featured many prominent policy makers who participated in a panel discussion moderated by Stephen Percy, director of UWM’s Center for Urban Initiatives and Research.1 It was Percy’s 1995 report o on Milwaukee’s parks, especially as it related to issues surrounding the community’s commitment to Milwaukee County’s parks, that had originally sparked the interest of Diane Buck, president of the Park People.

Volunteer of the Year Margarete Harvey.



Preserve our Parks (POP) started, primarily as a litigation organization. POP was founded in 1999 by a group of Milwaukeeans concerned about the future of our public parks, green spaces and the lakefront. Some board members from The Park People moved over to POP (note, TPP now has a policy that board members and staff need to choose).

Susan Slocum takes over as Executive Director.

Board tension arose as concerns over direction now that POP was formed, and how that might impact the mission of The Park People. This change also impacted donations to The Park People. Foundations such as the Godfrey Foundation step up along with assistance from the Non-Profit Management Center including support from Joan Blume and Pat Wisniski and Lynn Gratis.

Volunteer of the Year Nancy Cavanaugh.


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*Corrections or additions to the timeline can be submitted to The Park People at [email protected]