Governor announces $100,000 grant for a beach at Bay Beach

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The state is going to help pay for restoring a sand beach at Green Bay's Bay Beach Amusement Park.

Gov. Tony Evers, flanked by former Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt (left) and Mayor Eric Genrich (right), announces a state grant to help restore a swimming beach at Bay Beach Amusement Park (WBAY photo)

Gov. Tony Evers came to Bay Beach on Tuesday to announce a $100,000 grant from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.

Generations have only known concrete rubble along the shoreline behind the pavilion.

The plan is to open a 1,000-foot sand beach with a pier, boardwalk and wildlife viewing area by next summer.

The governor said this restoration project along the bay is about restoring the quality of life for people who live here.

"The enhanced access opportunities will foster community relationship with our coastal resources for all generations, but especially for our youth, who will become our next Great Lakes stewards and champions," Gov. Evers said.

The governor was joined by Mayor Eric Genrich and former Mayor Jim Schmitt, who spearheaded improvements to the park.

Mayor Genrich said the revival of the beach, along with the amusement park, the wildlife sanctuary, and the recently relocated children's museum will make this part of the city a destination.

"This is an incredible cultural amenity but also an economic driver for greater Green Bay, for Brown County, for the state," Genrich said, "so I think latest numbers, I think we see 3 million visitors a year here at Bay Beach. We expect that to grow with a swimmable beach."

The city bonded $5 million, which will be paid with revenue from the amusement park. But the project, which totals $7 million, is still relying on more grants and donations.

Before leaving office, Schmitt agreed to raise $1 million through a Bring Back the Beach campaign, and he has about $190,000 to go.

"You're going to be hearing from me in the next could months about the $5,000 that will get your name on this beautiful plaque honoring your legacy and family for years to come," Schmitt pitched.

The swimming beach was closed in the 1930s because of the water conditions, and cancer-causing PCBs dumped in the Fox River and carried into the bay prevented any hopes of it reopening until an EPA Superfund project cleaned up the sediment.

We reported last week the city is working on a water-quality monitoring plan for the DNR, explaining how it will ensure the water is safe for swimming and alert swimmers on days when it isn't, in case of algae blooms or E. coli bacteria.

"This is a great amenity. There's a great future for Bay Beach Amusement Park, and this shoreline improvement with the beach, the pier, the boardwalk, the bathhouse and concession stand and additional parking, that will help pave the next 50 years for Bay Beach," city parks director Dan Ditscheit said.

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