A couple days ago, Jason McDowel wrote an open letter on MKEBKE requesting that the trails in Milwaukee be better cleared of snow and ice in the winter. He argues that by looking at all the frozen footprints and bicycle tire ruts, anyone can see that there is a demand for use of these trails, even when the weather gets cold. Jason makes a good case for better winter maintenance of all the trails in Milwaukee in his post, but he didn’t explain why the trails are not plowed, or suggest a way we as trail users, might get our elected leaders and city departments to prioritize snow and ice removal from our area trails.
In this recent post, I have explained why I think we have spotty efforts to clear snow and ice from the various trails in the Milwaukee area. From the Milwaukee County Oak Leaf to the Hank Aaron State Trail to the City of Milwaukee Beer Line, the various municipalities in the 414 do a poor job of keeping out trails accessible during the winter months. I think that in part, it is because the trail network belongs to different municipalities, but also because we as citizens have done a poor job of advocating for winter trail maintenance.
While the reasons why our trails are full of snow and ice may vary, the result is inaccessible trails for all but the most adventurous, whether you want to get around on foot or on bike. Below is a video I shot this morning at the bridge over the Menomonee River by the Valley Passage on the Hank Aaron State Trail near 37th Street. If you want to see exactly where this is, click this link to view the Google Map with the bicycling layer turned on.
You can see by the video that the City of Milwaukee Bridge Maintenance Crew has done a good job of clearing snow on the bridge. They did a similarly good job clearing the snow on the spiral ramp that leads down to the bridge from 37th and W Pierce Street. But they are only tasked with maintaining City of Milwaukee Birdges, and the Hank Aaron is a state trail. As you can see by the tire tracks they drove with their plow blade up all the way along the Hank Aaron to clear the bridge, then they continued down the Hank Aaron, again with their plow blade up to clear a bridge somewhere further down the trail.
In that Ice Trail Bikers blog post, I mentioned that some municipalities do a very good job of clearing snow. How can we make Milwaukee one of those? I think we need to start our advocacy efforts at a more localized level. I suggest that those of us who care about winter access to trails target a the Oak Leaf and Beerline on Milwaukee’s east side and the Hank Aaron State Trail from 6th and Canal to Miller Park. Let’s get together to try to work with the various municipalities and non-profit groups connected to those specific trails to create a plan for those trails to be consistently and completely cleared of snow and ice. I suggest these trail segments because I know there are already people who want them better plowed.
I’m tired of complaining and explaing, so let’s organize, and the Bike Fed can help. If you want to work on this issue, I will set a meeting at our office and invite the right people from Milwaukee County, the City of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail and anyone interested people who want to attend.
If you are interested in meeting, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will create an email list, coordinate a date that works and invite all the important stakeholders to a meeting at our Milwaukee office. Who want’s to change the world with me?