Hank Aaron Trail now open to Winter Farmers Market

The connection to the trail is not paved (yet?), but you don't have to ride over much grass to get in.

The gate is now open from the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers Market at State Fair Park to the Hank Aaron State Trail! As of last weekend, you can now take the trail and ride right into the parking lot at the Tommy G Thompson Youth Center at 84th and Slinger. Credit goes to Melissa Cook, WDNR Trail Manager, for working with the State Fair to get the gate open this year.

Fresh, locally grown peppers in the winter? Yum.

Since the Winter Farmers Market opened two years ago, I have been riding on the Hank Aaron State Trail until it gets too snow-covered (That section of the trail is not plowed).

While I love taking the trail to the Market, the nearest connection to the State Fair grounds used to be at 89th Street. This was particularly frustrating because I had to pedal right past the Tommy Thompson Center, but I could not get in because the gate was locked. It is really nice to be able to ride right into the market and park at the bike racks outside the main entrance.

With the unseasonably warm temperatures predicted from the 60s and 40s, you shouldn’t have to worry about the the trail being blocked by snow for some time to come. Long term it would be wonderful if we could get this section of the trail plowed through the winter. The section to the east through the Menomonee Valley is generally plowed by the City and the property owners that abut the trail. That section also serves as a sidewalk, so it must be cleared of snow according to City of Milwaukee ordinances.  This section is pure trail and the major property owners west of the valley are the Urban Ecology Center, the VA Center, and then the Wisconsin State Fair.

If you have not been to this winter farmers market, I encourage you to check it out. It has a vendors with a wide variety of locally grown produce you would not think you could get in the winter, like peppers, greens, leeks, etc. Of course you can get cheese, eggs, pasture raised chicken, beef and pork, but there is also Elk and locally produced charcouterie like dry-aged salami and prosciutto.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

The smooth new asphalt on the ride home ensures no bruised produce. You and your apples are on your own once you hit city streets though.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

8 thoughts on “Hank Aaron Trail now open to Winter Farmers Market

  1. This is great news. I too was so discouraged having to pass the market on the trail, then riding out of the way on streets to get there. I think I will try it out this weekend! Thanks!

    • Cool, I will look for you and Dave. I ran into a bunch of friends on the trail and at the market last weekend.

  2. My husband and I walked the two mile round trip on the Hank Aaron trail, to the market. We were pleased and happy not to have to walk out of our way to get into the farmers market! Beautiful day, walk and produce from the market…yes it was Dec 1 and we were warm on our walk to the market via the trail 🙂

  3. Nice. The trail is a useful connector from many of the neighborhoods in the area and this makes it a great connector to the farmer’s market for non-motorized transport. Good going.

    But, Dave, any update on a lobbying effort to get that section of the HAST plowed? Even with our cooler temperature the HAST is a busy corridor these days. Last year I rode the HAST on my evening commute after a fresh snowfall (about 2-3″). It was a pleasant, stress free ride home. I was not the only user, either. At 3:00 that day (when commuter traffic is still light), I was one of at least 3-5 tracks and there were plenty of foot treads that day.

    But, then with the freeze/thaw cycle, the trail “glaciated” and made it impassable even with studded tires and, even for the walkers. For me, that meant riding the road for the rest of the season; for others, that may have pulled them indoors. Sad. Money spent plowing is money saved on healthcare.

    • Hey Cassandra,

      I certainly agree with you that money for plowing the trail west of the Valley would be well spent. I can’t give you any update at this point because my duties have shifted from being the “Milwaukee Bike Czar” that I was when I worked for the City as Bike and Ped Coordinator. I have lost some of my insider knowledge in my new role as statewide director of communications for the Bike Fed. I will ask Melissa Cook from the WDNR or one of the board members from the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail (FOHAST) to respond to this question though.

      I do know that the WDNR does not have any money in their budget to plow the trail. I seem to remember that they don’t even have a truck with a plow on it in their Milwaukee office. FOHAST has looked into using some of the revenue they generate with their %K Run/Walk to pay a private service to keep the trail clear of snow, but as I remember, it was too expensive. The section of the trail through the valley gets plowed by the property owners for the same reason people are required to clear the snow on the sidewalk in front of their property in the City of Milwaukee. So a bunch of different entities plow that section. For the property owners west of the Valley, the trail does not serve as a sidewalk, so they are not required to keep it clear.

      This is an issue that needs to become a local advocacy campaign. I will raise this issue with Jessica Binder in our Milwaukee office. She is going to be spearheading a Milwaukee Chapter of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. In 2013, the Bike Fed is making a big effort to define local and regional advocacy leaders who can organize our members in that area to get behind local issues. This is a perfect example of a situation that needs local advocacy.

  4. As Dave stated, there currently is no funding available for the DNR to plow the HAST in the winter. We are very aware of the need and desire of folks to use the Trail during the winter and we are continuing to work with the Friends Group and others to research options.

    This is a complex issue. When we looked at the cost of plowing based on regular snowfall amounts, it was extremely high. Then there’s the question of how often do we plow – every 2 inches?? How do we remove ice – salt? What impact will that have on all the plants and restoration work that we have invested in so heavily?

    One option suggested to me was to just plow in November, hold off on the snowier potential months of December, January, February, and March and then resume a guarantee to plow in April. The rationale being that only the hardiest will bike in those very cold weather months and plowing for a handful of people is the equivalent of several thousands of dollars per individual. And, with the weather being so unpredicable, it is a nightmare trying to even guess at a budget figure. I’ve also had feedback from cross country skiers that would like to see it unplowed. There’s never a shortage of opinions or controversy.

    As you can see, this is a difficult issue especially with budgets and staff already stretched thin. We will continue to work on this issue though and will continue to measure usage of the Trail year-round so that we have some good hard evidence of the need to keep it open.

    Thanks everyone for your on-going support!!

  5. I am personally conflicted when it comes to plowing. I am a year round commuter on the Oak Leaf from Shorewood to downtown and the County Parks system does a great job of keeping it cleared in winter. I love it. I rode the Hank on Sunday and saw a decent number of users, but still far less than on the Oak Leaf .

    A few years ago, Dave had the idea of FOHAST buying equipment and volunteers running it. If someone took ownership and organized, a grass roots effort with volunteers might be the most viable option (if we could address the salt issue and other concern Melissa has appropriately expressed). Maybe even neighbors with snowblowers?

    From a FOHAST perspective, the organization has competing priorities for funding. FOHAST is still working on funding a shelter at the west end of the trail and contributing to Airline Yards project (please make you year end donations to FOHAST or http://www.menomoneevalley-fromthegroundup.org) and a number of other initiatives (such as printing the map in Spanish).

    Dave – thanks for getting the word out on the farmer’s market – let’s hope they can open it up more times during the year!

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