Bender Park Boat Launch 2023 Status Update

Bender Park – 2023 Status Update

This memo seeks to provide a summary of Milwaukee County Parks’ action plan for Bender Park in 2023.

Boat Launch

Over the past two years, lower Lake Michigan water levels have revealed significant sand accumulation at the Bender Park Boat launch. Since the opening of Bender Park in 1999, sediment transport and the resulting accumulation of sediment in the small boat harbor entrance has become and continues to be a maintenance issue for the Milwaukee County Parks Department. 

In the past, the County has mechanically removed sediment from the entrance to allow continued access and egress for recreational boating. In 2007, the County dredged approximately 1,450 cubic yards to achieve a navigable harbor entrance. Four years later in 2011, 7,750 cubic yards were dredged.  Dredging activities also removed approximately 3,000 cubic yards of material in 2013 for approximately $150k. Dredging activities have been conducted by mechanical means as required under permit with the WDNR. Currently hydraulic dredging is not an option for carrying out sediment removal in this location.

These past dredging activities have not provided a long-term solution for the Bender Park Boat Launch as transport of sediment continues to be a routine issue. A 2007 study by consulting firm and original site designer JJR evaluated alternatives to help alleviate the need for frequent, long-term maintenance dredging. Alternatives ranged from extensions of the existing coastal structure to create pockets for sediment trapping, to large-scale reconstruction of the main breakwater and south jetty to push the mouth of the harbor into deeper water. Budget requests for a multimillion-dollar redesign of Bender Launch to a more sustainable solution based on those alternatives were submitted for capital funding in 2019, 2020, and 2023, but were not funded. Parks will be resubmitting a capital funding request for 2024.

Following the presentation of an informational report to the Parks Committee in March 2022, Parks conducted a bathymetric survey to evaluate current conditions. Parks has not completed a design or dredging cost estimate until funding is available due to changing site conditions. Any work would also require working with the DNR to determine the permitting process and timeframe. Dredging is not a sustainable long-term solution, and is not a bond-eligible project and would need an increase of operating expenditures if pursued in 2023.

Until funding is available, or lake levels rise, Parks will continue to warn launch users about the dangers using the launch. Four warning signs were installed in the park in 2022, and these will remain posted. Parks will also not install boat launch slips, except for the ADA launch, to discourage public use.

Park Roads and Parking Lots

Bender Park has approximately 1 mile of parkway, and two parking lots (one located in the upper portion of the park and the other at the boat launch) that cover 4.1 acres. Parks received a 2023 capital budget allocation of $294,970 for design solutions for the park road, as well as adjacent storm sewer failures south of the main park road.

Oak Leaf Trail – Extension to Bender Park

In 2020 MKE County Parks received $1.3M in funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program to develop the Oak Leaf Trail Extension - Bender Park Connection. Parks is currently in the planning phase of this project, and design is expected to be competed in 2023.   



Peter Bratt

Director of Operations and Skilled Trades

Milwaukee County Parks

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