Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club Index

It all started with trash on the beach.

On February 14, 2014, the Friends of Grant Park sent a letter to the Parks Department expressing our concerns over the use of the bluff area in Warnimont Park by the Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club. A follow-up letter of April 16, 2014 was sent following a meeting we had with the club. These documents thoroughly discuss our concerns. We provide a summary here to explain what led us to bring our concerns to the Parks Department.

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During several clean-up events held at Grant Park Beach over the years, thousands of small plastic moldings were collected by volunteers. These moldings are the cast off portion of shotgun shells. The longshore current very often flows from north to south along the beach, and it became obvious that these shotgun “waddings” as they are called, were deposited in the lake by our neighbor to the north, the Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club trap shooting operation (AKA Cudahy Gun Club). The club has been shooting into the lake since about 1932 from several locations along the shoreline, and have been at their current location since the early 60’s. In 2010 a constituent of County Supervisor Pat Jursik contacted her complaining about the number of plastic waddings he was finding on the beach. As a result, Supervisor Jursik met with the gun club and suggested they needed to deal with this problem. Again, in November 2013 we complained about the wadding to Supervisor Jursik. She informed us she met with the club and admonished them to do their part to clean up, consistent with the terms of their lease with the County. Still, the waddings kept accumulating on the beach.

The county parks property leased by the club is littered with both wadding and orange clay targets. Lead shot is sold by the club and preferred by its members. The clay targets are made of limestone and petroleum pitch, and are not biodegradable. Viewed from the beach, the debris is alarming. Much of the wadding collects at the top of the bluff, where the club is able to rake some of it up and dispose of it properly, but much more is carried over the bluff by wind and weather. The club admits the bluff itself is impossible to keep clean because of its steep angle and potential for erosion damage. The majority of the orange clay targets accumulate over the bluff’s edge and litter the landscape; some make it as far as the lake, as evidenced by target debris scattered on the ice when the club opened for the season in February. The club erected fencing intended to prevent targets and wadding from reaching the lake, but erosion from the hillside simply overwhelmed it, both over the top and forming gullies underneath. This simply reinforced our view that there was no way to effectively catch the hillside debris before it got into the lake.

Our research into how to solve this problem involved reviewing several manuals on “best management practices” at gun sites, such as erecting berms to allow for remediation and removal of lead contaminated sediment and soils, and erecting netting to prevent targets from reaching the lake. Because of the unique location of the club on the bluffs overlooking the lake, none of these remedial measures were usable there. These manuals stated gun clubs of this sort should NOT be located over waters and wetlands.

Another one of our chief concerns was the erosion of the bluff at the gun site. The club itself admitted that it was losing 2-3 feet of bluff a year, with no means to stop the encroachment. We believe this was the result of the inability to plant trees, bushes, and other vegetation, given the club’s presence, to stabilize the area.

A similar operation, the Milwaukee Gun Club, was closed down in 1989. Other clubs located on wetlands or bodies of water have been closed: Lincoln Park Gun Club, Chicago, IL (1991); Southern Lakes Trap & Skeet Club, Lake Geneva, WI (1992), both for violations of federal environmental law (Clean Water Act, and Resource Conservation Recovery Act). Newspaper articles published in the Milwaukee Journal about the Milwaukee Gun Club closure suggested that the county decided to repurpose the land to soccer fields and terminated the lease. The Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club is the last gun club in the country still operating on the Great Lakes.

6 thoughts on “Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club Index

  1. bluetoday

    I know the focus of the gun club issue has been on the environmental contamination. Recently, safety aspects of the club have been brought to my attention that I believe are worthy of the public’s attention. I have created a graphic illustration of the situation and initiated a discussion about it on the Reddit Milwaukee Forum. The Reddit discussion is rather long because many details are addressed. I hope visitors to this site take the time to read through it. Your site seems to be the hub for information regarding the club. I hope you include these links to the graphic and the forum in your list of resources:

    http://i.imgur.com/1KHUhlh.png

    http://redd.it/2rp9qw

    Reply
  2. CFEJ

    Over these past several months, the investigations by your members and supporters of the operating practices of the Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club have uncovered not only serious and egregious environmental and public safety infractions, but also gross negligence on the part of various regulatory bodies, amounting to willful non-enforcement of local, state, and federal statutes.

    The continued non-enforcement of applicable laws, allowing the resumption of regular toxic discharges from the site into Lake Michigan will trigger federal citizen suits against the Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club, the City of Cudahy, Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the State of Wisconsin, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

    Citizens for Earth Justice

    Reply
    1. Ruminator

      Well, fogp’d just be bystanders in this regard, CfEJ, but will be interested in observing your peaceful and legal process.

      Reply
  3. michael schneck

    Friends of Grant Park are so worried about the gun club. Why are they not doing anything about the ponds and creek beds that are about as nasty as an outhouse! Walk along the beach and you will find used condoms, tampons, tampon tubes, drug needles, old tires, broken beer and wine bottles plus what ever else you don’t want to touch and wouldn’t touch! Might get your hands dirty or break a nail. Yes there are shot shell wads but they won’t give you anything nasty. You people need to get a life .

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      True, there are many types of trash washing up on the beach, as well as that left behind by irresponsible beach goers. The police and sheriff’s department are trying to address the improper use of the beach for bonfires, parties, drinking after hours, etc. but their resources are limited. The Friends are having a Beach Cleanup on Sept. 19th, focusing on the 7 Bridges beach. Regarding the ponds and creek beds: we received a grant in 2012 to restore a washed out slope in the 7 Bridges ravine with native plants and shrubs that take root in the soil and prevent more erosion from muddying the creek. The pond water quality we have not addressed. Brian Russart, Milwaukee County Parks Natural Areas Coordinator, is aware of the issue and we hope he will include us in any effort his department advances toward clearing the pond. We agree, the water quality in the pond suffers (and smells).

      We are still concerned about any hobby activity that continually dumps toxic trash into the lake with no plans to stop shooting, prevent further trash from entering the lake, or cleaning up the mess, which no one can deny is generated by the Cudahy Sportsmen’s Club.

      Reply

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