The photo below shows a section of the Beer Line rail corridor that has been used as a defacto trail by the neighborhood ever since the rail line went out of business in the 1980s.
There is intense interest in developing the river corridor by residential and commercial developers. Riverwest has had a dialouge going among neighbors and power brokers for decades on open space issues. The first mention of this land for community use dates back to the 1995-96 study for Gordon Parks rebuilding. Now in 2006 the two threads of green space preservation with use by the community and development for housing and commerce have come head to head.
I put the photo in this editorial to illustrate what the neighborhood could lose if this corridor is not protected as best we can under the present circumstances. The trail between Wright Street and Meinecke Avenue is in private hands and could be developed. If the land swap with Milwaukee County and the developer occurs we get this essential connection to the trail and maximize the area of the river valley that is kept in a natural state.
If the land swap fails we must insist that this land be preserved and not developed. The bike and pedestrian trail should be built as soon as possible before funding for this project is lost as changing government direction could divert monies from the Beer Line trail.
I support the land swap and the construction of student housing at North Avenue (see cover story) because it is the best compromise possible for land preservation and development.
The possiblity of developing a green infrastructure of trails and open space in public ownership that rivals any community in this country is too good to miss and we will miss it if action is not taken now on land preservation for this and other key areas adjacent to Riverwest.
Riverwest Currents online edition – February, 2006