pedestrian bridge over kinnickinnic river in pulaski park

Pulaski park 

Project Update

On April 11th MMSD and their contractor, Stantec, successfully completed a prescribed burn in Pulaski Park as part of the long-term vegetation management.  The burn was performed in coordination with the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center and Milwaukee County Parks.  The burn took place in native vegetative areas in the park along the Kinnickinnic River, north of Cleveland Ave.

Prescribed burns offer several benefits for the environment including:

  • Removal of old vegetation: Removing dead plant material to make way for new growth.
  • Reduction of invasive species: Invasive plants are not well adapted to burns like our native plant species. Prescribed burns help prevent the spread of invasive plants that could harm the native plant communities being established in Pulaski Park.
  • Reduction of herbicide use for invasive plant management.
  • Enhancement of habitat: Helps promote diverse habitats for various plants and animals.
  • Improvement of soil quality: Returns nutrients back to the soil that nourish native plants and reduce the need for additional fertilizing.

Next year, MMSD plans to perform another prescribed burn in Pulaski Park in areas that were not burned this year, including along the river south of Cleveland Ave.  

  • slide

    Team reviewing the plan for the prescribed burn.

  • slide

    Spreading out along the path of the burn.

  • slide

    Setting the fire.

  • slide

    Managing active fire at the site.

  • slide

    Burn at the first location almost completed.

  • slide

    The prescribed burn team repeats the process at another location along the river.

Pulaski Park Project Overview

Pulaski Park is a beautiful urban 26-acre park, situated on Milwaukee’s South Side. It has always been an active destination but now the community has rediscovered an amazing treasure within the park, the Kinnickinnic River! Over the last two years, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), in partnership with Milwaukee County Parks and others, removed over 1,700 feet of cracked and broken concrete river lining and restored the Kinnickinnic River to a natural stream in Pulaski Park.

This project is part of a larger effort by MMSD and its partners to reduce the risk of flooding, improve public safety by slowing down the river, improve the natural habitats within the river and along its banks for fish and wildlife, and refresh parts of the park to better support recreation and meet community needs.

Pulaski Park Neighborhoods

  • Pulaski Park Concrete Removal Before

    Pulaski Park Concrete Removal Before

  • Pulaski Park Concrete Removal During

    Pulaski Park Concrete Removal During

  • Pulaski Park Concrete Removal After

    Pulaski Park Concrete Removal After

Surrounding Pulaski Park is the Forest Home Hills and Lincoln Village neighborhoods which are home to over 18,000 residents living in just under two square miles. Once predominantly made up of a Polish population, today the majority of households are of Latinx origin. Many of the current neighbors are lifelong residents of the area.

Pulaski Park is one of the only green spaces in the area, serving a very diverse community with many different needs.  The park includes something for people of all ages and activity levels from active (basketball/futsal) to passive (walking paths).  The park also includes one of two indoor pools within the Milwaukee County Park system.

The Pulaski Park area, as well as the entire Kinnickinnic River Watershed, is highly urbanized. The dense number of streets, parking lots, and rooftops, prevent rain and melting snow from naturally being absorbed back into the soil. Unfortunately, during storm events, water flows quickly off these surfaces and overwhelms the river, which drastically increases the risk of flooding.  As development spread throughout the watershed, the frequency and magnitude of flooding increased for the communities downstream, such as the neighborhoods surrounding Pulaski Park.

In the 1960s, government officials thought the best way to protect the neighborhood and public health was to move the water through the river systems as fast as possible. To accomplish this, many sections of the Kinnickinnic River and its tributary streams, including in Pulaski Park, were “channelized” by lining the streams with concrete. The concrete channels were successful at quickly moving water through the system. Unfortunately, it also created safety, water quality, and downstream flooding problems.


The transformation of Pulaski Park has been a long time coming.  Since 2008, government, non-profit, and community partners have worked to create ideas of a new park space that would help reduce the risk of flooding and better serve the community.  Those ideas have now come to life thanks to partnerships with Milwaukee County Parks, the City of Milwaukee, and numerous additional partners.

Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC), a health provider on the south side recognizes the critical link between the health of the river and the health of the community and was essential in engaging the local community. The Kinnickinnic River Neighbors in Action (KKRNIA) is a grassroots community group that helped to connect residents to the project happening in their neighborhood. These groups helped provide opportunities for residents to learn about the project and share their voice during the project design.

This project proves that when neighbors, community organizations, and government work together we can make an investment that everyone values.

Community Connections

MMSD recognizes that engaging the community in collaborative decision making improves the connections between land, water and people. From the beginning neighbors provided input on what parts of the park they love, what they would like to see improved, and what they would like to see changed. Engaging the community early and often built trust, promoted accountability, and strengthened the commitment of all.

Throughout the projects’ design process neighbors were asked for feedback through newsletters, monthly neighborhood meetings, special events, and public meetings. Neighbors voted on the design and color of the new pedestrian bridge, the new types of playground equipment, and the types of sport courts.

Not only did the neighbors provide their input on the project, they were actively involved in caring for the park. Summer camp youth from the area created a Pulaski Park mural with the help of Melanie Ariens. On a regular basis the KKRNIA organized litter cleanups of the area. SSCHC hosted workshops and classes in the park for residents to learn about the plants and river.

Meaningful community engagement and partnerships led to a park that everyone cares for and enjoys.

The Result

The outcome is a park that the whole community can be proud of and love. 

  • Over 1,700 feet of cracked and broken concrete lining the riverbed was removed, and the river channel widened to allow the area to better handle heavy rains. 
  • The bridge opening under W. Cleveland Ave. at the center of the park was opened up to allow more water to flow through during floods.
  • At the neighbors’ request, the tennis court was changed to a futsal court.
  • The basketball court was replaced
  • The park's pedestrian bridge over the river was replaced with a new design picked by the neighbors.
  • New native plants and trees were planted throughout the park.  The deeper roots on these native plants will soak up more stormwater, minimize erosion and buffer the stream to prevent pollutants from reaching the river. These areas also provide great areas for butterflies, birds, and other animals to live.
  • A new playground was installed, and neighbors picked the type of equipment.
  • Improved trails and river overlooks are now throughout the park.
  • A new pool patio with open views of the restored river.
  • Curb bump-outs in Cleveland Avenue to create a safer crossing for bicycles and pedestrian traffic from the north side of the park to the south side of the park.
  • Futsol Court

    Futsol Court

  • Basketball Court

    Basketball Court

  • Playground


  • Park Assets

    Park Assets

Part of A Larger Plan

Pulaski Park Interview - Great Lakes Now

Pulaski Park Interview - Great Lakes Now

The Pulaski Park project is part of the larger Kinnickinnic River Watershed Flood Management Plan. The goals of this plan include:

  • Flood risk reduction to over 660 residential & commercial structures;
  • Improved public safety;
  • Improved riparian & aquatic habitats;
  • Enhanced stream aesthetics; and
  • Robust community collaboration.

Click here to see learn more about the Kinnickinnic River Watershed and other MMSD projects that are helping to accomplish this goal.


  • Dec.2009-Dec. 2020: Preliminary/Ongoing Engagement
  • Dec. 2009-Dec. 2018: Planning & Design
  • Aug. 2018-Aug. 2020: Construction
  • Aug 2020-Aug. 2025: Post Construction Vegetation Establishment

Other MMSD Flood Management Projects

30th street corridor mmsd

30th Street Corridor

A flood management plan is underway to capture and store 40 million gallons of stormwater to reduce the risk of flooding when storms roll over the area. 

Kinnickinnick River progress MMSD

Kinnickinnic River 

Learn more about the various solutions MMSD is working on to reduce flooding of the Kinnickinnic River.

MMSD greenseams for flood management


Greenseams® helps prevent future flooding and water pollution while supporting and protecting MMSD's structural flood management projects - infrastructure investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Greenseams® is an innovative flood management program that permanently protects key lands containing water absorbing soils.