Saturday, June 16, 2012

Work begins on Innovation Park

We knew this day would come, those of us who have been following developments on the County Grounds since the sale of 89 acres to the UWM Real Estate Foundation by Milwaukee County. The backhoes and bulldozers have arrived and pipelines are being laid. Innovation Park is envisioned as an engineering research campus and business incubator. Despite some lingering concerns about the state of the economy as well as the fate of wildlife habitats, construction is beginning. The first phase is to install (taxpayer funded) utilities: water, sewer, power lines.

For the many people who have gotten used to walking their dogs on what has been a uniquely unbounded prairie landscape – if they haven’t been aware of the political machinations and financial deals that have led to this day – there may well be some shock when they first encounter these scenes. This is just the beginning. Once the utilities have been laid, work will begin on the roads.

If you follow my blog even occasionally you know that I am among those who have paid close attention to the County Grounds. This day has had a long gestation, beginning really back in 1997 when then County Executive Tom Ament proposed selling nearly the entire County Grounds for commercial development. Opposition led to compromise and, long story short, large portions of the grounds have remained open space while this corner was slated for what we now see happening.

Still, we who value the wind in our faces and the sounds of the sparrows will find it hard to face the now visible manifestation of our compromises. The following email arrived in my inbox yesterday from Tim Vargo, a fellow nature lover:
“It was with great sadness that I [ventured onto the] County Grounds this morning. A landscape so open you could imagine buffalo grazing. The soundtrack [to these scenes] was bobolinks and dicksissel, Savannah sparrows and meadowlarks, willow and least flycatchers, and a possible pair of breeding Henslow's sparrows. All in the name of progress.”

It is my hope that those who have been granted responsibility for constructing a campus on this much-loved landscape will do so with a minimum of bravado and maximum sensitivity, not only to the landscape itself but also to the needs and feelings of the people who delight in its spacious beauty.

 Discovery Parkway, the main road through Innovation Park, will run through here.

 In moments like this I often pick up one of my volumes on Thoreau for solace and insight. I am rarely disappointed. A hundred and fifty years ago he anticipated nearly every feeling and experience I’ve had at one time or another. Here’s a brief passage from Thoreau’s journal that I came across this morning:

“The perception of beauty is a moral test.”

For more on recent events concerning the County Grounds – or, more specifically, the Eschweiler buildings – go to Wauwatosa Patch.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Excellent post, Eddee. I put it here - -