Monthly Archives: January 2015

Our message to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors

January 26, 2015

Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors
Parks, Energy and Environment Committee

Gerry Broderick, Chair,
Khalif Rainey, Vice Chair,
Jason Haas,
Deanna Alexander,
Steve F. Taylor,
Anthony Staskunas,
Martin Weddle,

Re:Items 5-6 on PEEC Agenda for January 27, 2015,
Lease Agreement with Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club

Dear Committee Member:

The Friends of Grant Park strenuously oppose any further lease extension between Milwaukee County and the Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club at Warnimont Park. Extending the lease would not only facilitate violations of federal law by the Club, but increase the environmental damage occurring and further subject county taxpayers with greater cleanup costs at the site.

For years the Friends of Grant Park and other volunteers participating in beach cleanups complained about the thousands of plastic shotgun wads littering the beaches which originate from the Club, located a full two miles north of Grant Park. For years we simply picked them up.  Our research revealed a much larger problem than plastic wads in November of 2013.

The history and details of our research may be found at Club Issues. For now, we present a summary of concerns expressed to the County Parks that we hope you will read prior to the meeting on Tuesday. We have expanded these summary points further on in this document and encourage you to apprise yourself of these details as well.

In Summary: 6 points that have been raised with the Milwaukee County Parks Administration:

            1. The club admits that 99.9% of all lead shot fired at the site lands directly in Lake Michigan.  The quantity of lead deposited in the lake by the club each year approaches 1 ton. (25,000 shotgun shells full of lead @ 1-ounce of lead per shot equals 1,734 pounds of shot). These quantities have been building up in Lake Michigan at the site over the 65 years of the club’s presence in the park. Photos supplied by UWM Water School research divers will document this and can be found at
            2. The club states that it goes through 25,000 clay targets containing a toxic binding material each shooting season. As confirmed by a DNR warden many of these targets wind up directly in the lake, either whole or in pieces. The rest wind up on the steep hillside, described by one DNR Warden as a virtual “garbage dump” and eventually wash into the lake.  25,000 plastic waddings are likewise discharged at the site every year. The majority of these also wind up on the hillside, and are eventually washed into Lake Michigan.  Fencing recently installed to capture this has failed and is buried beneath eroded soils.
            3. The debris that the club discharges into Lake Michigan puts them in direct violation of the federal Clean Water Act. That law requires that anybody discharging these kinds of materials into a body of water such as Lake Michigan secure a permit from the EPA. Although this has been a requirement since the mid-70’s the club has made no attempts to secure such a permit.
            4. The great weight of authority on this issue states that gun clubs of this type cannot operate near or at bodies of water.  Various manuals put out by EPA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, whose members include among others, the Amateur Trap Shooting Association and the National Rifle Association advise trap shooting organizations on how to conduct their operations within the confines of the law. None of the practices recommended for capturing the lead, the clay targets and the plastic waddings and preventing them from leaving the site and contaminating the surrounding area can be implemented at this site. The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Manual, after noting the EPA permit requirement for these kinds of sites, states:
              • “Avoid range sites that would require shooting over or into wetlands or surface water.”
              • “To the maximum extent possible, shooting positions should be oriented so that lead is deposited within an area that is well stabilized, relatively unattractive to wildlife, and facilitates lead recovery. Impact areas should not be associated with sensitive areas such as wetlands, open water, areas with woody vegetation, or high quality wildlife habitat.”
            5. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued an Internal Guidance document, effective January 20, 2015, that makes many of these same points.

              1. The current lease between the county and the club required that the latter post only a $30,000.00 cash bond to cover necessary cleanup at the site once they leave. In February of 2014 we provided the Parks Department with prior examples where the EPA required property owners (i.e. in our case, the County) to cover the costs of all environmental cleanup in instances where gun clubs of this sort simply went out of business and left the site. In one instance in southeastern Wisconsin the EPA cleaned up the site and sent a 1.1 million dollar bill to the property owners for reimbursement. Concern for the taxpayers of Milwaukee County was the primary cause for Corporation Counsel to emphasize this issue when recommending that the gun club lease not be renewed. Renewing the lease with the knowledge of the club’s lack of an EPA permit can only put the county and its taxpayers in a more precarious position.
              2. A chart kept in the clubhouse at the Sportsmen’s Club’s site indicates they have been monitoring the loss of bluff area due to erosion. In our April 7, 2014 meeting, the club’s Board of Directors told us that they lose 2-3 feet of bluff every year. Thus, this site, with a bluff of sharp decline, is quantitatively eroding. Stabilizing the bluff by Parks management is currently impossible given the inaccessibility compounded by the club waste being deposited there.

That the serious environmental concerns we identified to the Parks Department exist here was confirmed by the December 11, 2014 “Responsible Party” letter from the Department of Natural Resources to both the Milwaukee County Executive and the Sportsmen’s Club. The letter confirmed that a “hazardous substance discharge, including lead contamination in the soil, had been documented at the site” and that other materials constituting environmental pollution such as “broken clay targets and shot shell wads” were also present. The DNR indicated that a procedure would be established for the required reclamation of the site under Chapter 292, Wis. Stats.

Likewise, our concerns voiced over a year ago in our submissions to the Parks Department concerning the potential costs to the county taxpayers for reclamation at the Club’s site were directly on point. Equally disturbing is the fact that while the DNR has determined that the site will have to be reclaimed, and that Milwaukee County is responsible for this cleanup, the Club will resume its operations in February of this year. Despite the site being found to have lead contamination, the Club will continue using lead shot, thus continuing to pollute and contaminate the site, and driving up the reclamation costs. .

One can’t help noticing that none of this information is included in any of the documents submitted by the Club in support of the Resolution authored by Supervisor Weishan. In particular, the “fiscal effect form” filed in support of the Resolution identifies only increasing operating revenues as resulting from adopting the resolution. Does this refer to the minimal annual rent payment made by the Club on the lease, which amounts to a little over $10.00 per Club member per year? The fiscal note form identifies none of the reclamation costs which the county will now be saddled with.

Indeed, the Club is now requesting that it be granted the right to extend this lease for an additional 9 years. Thus, Milwaukee County faces the prospect of financing a cleanup of the site, only to have it re-contaminated from continued use by the gun club, and having to pay a second or third set of reclamation costs as later determined by the DNR.

We do not dispute the Club’s right to exist, we object to its location. In that regard, we are aware of the recent discussion regarding the Club’s apparent relocation efforts. That the Club has options to relocate its operation is clear. As early as December of 2014, they were informed by the DNR that the latter has funds available for entities like the Club to subsidize the cost of relocating to a more appropriate site.

Going forward, we would urge the committee to weigh carefully the credibility of the positions taken by the Club. Since they were originally notified of the cancellation of their lease, they have seriously misrepresented the facts in their public statements and have otherwise been less than candid. It has consistently been their position that none of their activities created any environmental problems at the site. Indeed, members were seen on social media and heard on talk radio taking the position that no debris was being introduced into the lake. It was said by the Club that our concerns were fabricated and that we were motivated by an anti-gun agenda. Despite the recent findings by the DNR, this continues to be their position, as demonstrated by a petition they are still circulating, and which was prominently displayed on their website until quite recently.

For the Sportsmen’s Club any lease extension would be an economic windfall. In no other location could they hope to operate so cheaply. Presently all their debris is conveniently deposited into Lake Michigan. Moving to another location would require them to pay for the  collection and proper disposal of tons of lead shot, toxic clay targets and plastic wads, as other trap shooting organizations are required to do. On the other hand, it’s also the responsible thing to do.


Matt Collins receives Outstanding Young Professional of the Year award

Wisconsin Park & Recreation Association Park Section Announces 2014 Award Winners including:

Matthew Collins, Unit Coordinator 

Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture 

Matt worked to develop a pilot program that offers underprivileged youth an opportunity to experience career options within the Milwaukee County Parks system. This partnership with the Milwaukee Job Corps, a federally funded campus offered to financially underprivileged youth seeking to obtain experience with a skilled trade after graduating high school. This program has not only provided opportunity and experience for the participants, it has provided Milwaukee County with park services in a non-costly manner.

This past summer, Milwaukee Job Corps workers installed the lion’s share of the new fencing in  Grant Park along the top edge of the seven bridges ravine.

Please join the Friends of Grant Park in congratulating Matt, the 2014 Park Section Outstanding Young Professional of the Year.