Monday, November 8, 2010

Hank Aaron State Trail ribbon cutting today

The sun was bright and the weather balmy today as eager supporters of the Hank Aaron State Trail (HAST) assembled on Pierce Street at 37th to celebrate the opening of the new Valley Passage, a new bridge over the Menomonee River, and a new length of the HAST. I’d call it a three run homer for Hank! Mayor Barrett headlined an all-star cast of dignitaries and celebrities who universally extolled the virtues of a Trail that is now within a fifteen minute bike ride of over 400,000 people in the Milwaukee area.

 People stream down the elegant S-curve of the Valley Passage towards the river.

The Valley Passage and bridge reopens a route from the near south side Silver City neighborhood into the Menomonee Valley, thus providing access to the Valley with its still expanding industries and recreational opportunities. Simultaneously, a new leg of the HAST now reaches from the Valley out to 94th Street along a former rail line. Plans to continue it out to join the Oak Leaf Trail near the county line will make it possible to ride a bicycle from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

 Officials and celebrities join in the ribbon cutting at the new bridge.

But wait, there’s more! Another runner rounds third and hits the bag for a fourth run: Ken Leinbach, director of the Urban Ecology Center (UEC) was on hand to officially announce the center’s partnership with the State Trail. The UEC’s third satellite center will be housed in a former bar building right next to the Valley Passage and bring children from south side schools into newly restored riverside parklands. Have I mentioned lately how important the work of the UEC is to Milwaukee’s urban wilderness? I cannot speak more highly of their programs. I hope someday there are satellite centers within a fifteen minute bike ride from everywhere in Milwaukee County.

This doesn’t look like much more than piles of dirt today, but this was once a rail yard and will soon be beautifully restored parkland that evokes Wisconsin’s glacial heritage. The HAST will provide access and the UEC will bring schoolchildren to explore the river and native wildlife there.

Many people were thanked at the ceremony today, including State DNR and Milwaukee officials, politicians, and businesses, among others, who contributed time, energy, materials, and funds to make all of this possible. However, the most important thanks go to trail manager Melissa Cook, the staff of Menomonee Valley Partners, and the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail, many of whom are gathered here for their first ride across the new bridge.

Oh, and stay tuned. Here's artist Chad Brady putting final touches on the first section of a new mural that will cover the entire concrete retaining walls of the Valley Passage. The other sections will be finished next spring.



  1. I was out on Sunday (before the ribbon was cut) between 68th St and Airline Yards, and there were throngs of people out walking, biking, running, etc. It was so nice to see - quite a contrast to the trash-magnet it was before the trail went in. I think this is going to be a game-changer.

  2. Thanks for writing this fantastic post! I didn't make it to the ribbon cutting, but am glad to read about it and see these great photos!

  3. Subjectively said, Let's here it for Laura Bray (my wife) - who's been bustin' her chops on this for the last 7 years! She's an amazing leader of this project!