In the future it may be harder to find your happy place in Milwaukee if the legislature leaves all attacks on local control and cuts to bicycle funding in the state budget. In the long term, even the Legislative Fiscal Bureau predicts those political power grabs will hurt Milwaukee private and business taxpayers, whether they ride bikes or not. Thankfully, for those of us looking forward to pedaling through this summer in the 414, there is a bit of good news on the horizon.
Some incredible new trails and parkland are nearly finished thanks to good local urban planning leveraged with relatively small investments of public funds. The long wait for the Kinnickinnic River Trail is nearly over, with paving already done from Washington to Maple, and the south leg from Lincoln to Rosedale under construction. I know more than a few folks in Bay View and Lincoln Village who have almost given up on that project ever being built, but they should be able to ride the north leg by Memorial Day and the full length of the trail to S. 6th Street and Rosedale Avenue this Fall. The time needed to construct a new bridge over Chase Avenue is the reason the south segment will not open sooner.
Click this link to view a Google Map I created of the Kinnickinnic River Trail. The map also shows the section of Washington and South Water Streets that will be improved for bicycling as part of the Bay View to Downtown Connector (the sad alternative to a bikeway over the Hoan Bridge). As the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage Commission continues to remove the concrete lining of the KK River to the west of 6th as part of their flood abatement project, the trail will be extended west as well.
Please note that even though the north segment of the KK River Trail is paved, construction is ongoing, so it is not open yet. I spoke with the construction supervisor from Milwaukee DPW, and he thought that segment of trail might be complete and open by Memorial Day, but he added both Washington and Maple Streets are slated for full reconstruction projects. While those roads are being improved (and they need it) getting to the trail will be difficult or impossible until later this summer. People are advised to stay out of active construction zones.
Perhaps even more exciting is the opening of the new 24 acre park between the Mitchell Park Domes and the Menomonee Valley Passage in an abandoned former rail yard from about 27th to 35th Streets along the Menomonee River. The park will be operated through a partnership of the city of Milwaukee and the state Department of Natural Resources. Two new bridges will dramatically improve access to the new park, the Hank Aaron State Trail, the other recreational opportunities, and of course, to all the new businesses and jobs created recently in the Valley.
The two new bicycle and pedestrian bridges will be at 33rd Court (behind Palermo’s Pizza and nest to Falk) and from a new hill in the park up to the Mitchell Park Domes. The new Menomonee Valley Park will also have community garden plots and will provide access to the river for fishing and canoeing. The wet spring had delayed plantings and some other landscaping, but the grand opening of the park is still scheduled for July 20th.
For Milwaukee residents like me who’s grandfather proudly worked int he Milwaukee Road Shops, an enormous complex that made rail cars and locomotives for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroads, and sadly grew up watching the Valley erode into empty, polluted brown-fields, the transformation of the Valley around the Hank Aaron State Trail has been almost magical. Anyone who drove I94 west of downtown looked down on the empty shells of factories and our city’s most visible eyesore. Since the trail was built and the investment was made to reclaim about 300 acres of brownfields, more than 35 companies have moved to the Valley, investing hundreds of millions of private dollars. One million square feet of green buildings and seven miles of trails have been constructed, and 45 acres of native plants installed, leading to improved wildlife habitat, improved water quality, increased recreational opportunities in the heart of an urban center, and at the same time creating more than 4,700 family-supporting jobs.