People from nearby neighborhoods and throughout the city are enthusiastic about a scenic section of the Kinnickinnic River Trail that takes cyclists and pedestrians off busy city streets and onto a paved path along the river.
“It’s a lot more fun to ride on a trail along a beautiful river like this than to ride on a street,” said Sherman Park resident Dave Steele.
“I’m a lot more comfortable taking my kids out on a bike path than I am on the street,” he added.
More than 100 neighbors and bike enthusiasts braved rainy weather to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the official opening of the trail.
The event marked the completion of the first phase of the Kinnickinnic River Trail, a 2.25-mile pedestrian and bicycle route that uses a combination of off-street paved trails and on-street bike lanes. This phase of the trail also is part of a bike route between the Bay View neighborhood and downtown.
It took many years of bureaucratic struggle to get approvals for the trail, said Mary Beth Driscoll, executive director of Groundwork Milwaukee. “There’s a new bridge over Chase Avenue and we’ve got lots of neighbors and bikers celebrating the fact that we’ve got a new connection to the South Side.”
Driscoll’s organization collected comments from community members to present to the city and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sanitary District about their wishes for the project. When 6th Street was rebuilt, it was designed with the trail underneath. Driscoll said that was really important because once the construction was finished, it was no longer possible to redesign it.
Twelve years ago, when Dave Schlabowske started working on bicycle advocacy, Milwaukee had about seven miles of bike lanes on the streets, he recalled. The city had no trails, said Schlabowske, communications director for the Bike Federation of Wisconsin.
“[Milwaukee has] added about 25 miles of bike trails, so we’re up around 90 miles of bike lanes in the last decade and this is one piece of that network,” he said.
The trail is part of the larger Kinnickinnic River Corridor revitalization efforts underway to improve health and quality of life for city residents, especially those living on the South Side.
“In my experience working on the South Side, there have been a lot of problems such as violence, drug activity; a lot of problems in the environment. So something in the environment for people to come and enjoy that’s beautiful and healthy is really good for the community,” said Chelsea Melendez-Kapitan of Greendale.