Bringing the beach back to Bay Beach

Mayor Jim Schmitt

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) — The beach at Bay Beach hasn’t been open since the ’40s, but that was something Mayor Jim Schmitt wanted to change. 

The reason the beach closed in the first place was pollution, so in 2012, researchers began to test the quality of the water at the beach. The project all began back in 2009 when public input was collected on the idea of re-opening the beach. And the city says the feedback it received was clear.

“The community expressed their interest to really enhance and embrace the Bay waterfront,” 
said Green Bay Park Director Dan Ditscheit.

The results of a water quality study done on the beach were published in 2015, and the results were much better than what scientists were expecting.

“We feel confident that the water quality is there and that the restoration can happen,” said Mayor Jim Schmitt.

Returning Bay beach to the hot spot it was in the early 1900s. 

“Beaches are unique, they are special. Not every community can have a beach.”

Right now, Green Bay is losing tourism dollars to other lakeshore communities. 

“I think it is sad that we are a coastal city on Lake Michigan, and we have no beach,” said Natural Resource Planner Angela Pierce.

Bay Beach closed to swimmers in the 1940s because of pollution, and there is still a stigma attached to the water. However, the mayor says with some education, people will return. 

“You can’t argue with testing, and we have been testing that water for three years now, and we are confident,” said Schmitt. “The DNR wouldn’t permit and the city would not support something that is not safe.”

Researchers from UW-Oshkosh collected water samples three times a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day, peak beach season.

“We weren’t expecting it to be this good,” said Pierce, “but based on E. coli, Bay Beach is on par with any other Lake Michigan beach.”

Once the beach is open, the water will continue to be monitored. 

“There are going to be times that the beach has elevated E. coli levels and you would have advisory or closure just like any beach on Lake Michigan,” Pierce reassured.

The city says this project will be less expensive than building a new community pool. In addition to some taxpayer dollars, they’ll be relying on private donations.  

“We see volleyball happening there, events happening there as well as people just reading and relaxing,” said Schmitt.

And the project got a major private donation from the hometown team.

The Green Bay Packers announced they would invest $250,000 to help recreate the swimming area. The final project will include a 1,000 ft. swimming beach which will replace the shoreline walkway. Also included are lots of lighting and seating as well as a 450 ft. waterfront pier. The Packers said helping out the project is a good investment.

“We just thought it was a perfect time to provide an impact grant,” said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy. “Hopefully people across the community will rally and match our grant.”

The current plan is to begin work in 2019 and have the beach open by the spring of 2020.

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