A shared use philosophy -River Trails



Public Meeting on Trails – Monday October 15, Gordon Park Pavilion, 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

History: Decision to Begin a Master Plan for Milwaukee’s Central Park – 2008

By the end of 2008, members of the Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition decided they could and should start work on a master plan for Milwaukee’s Central Park. The members of the MRGC were the groups most intimately connected to, involved with, and informed about the corridor. They had been involved with the corridor for long periods of time. They possessed the information and shared a vision for the future of the corridor.

The group recognized that ultimately many other groups and individuals had an interest and would be involved in creating a master plan. To get the process started the group decided to meet with a minimal number of people who could quickly record known information and issues about the corridor. This would be the beginning of the master plan. There would be no attempt at the planning meeting to resolve issues, only to identify them. Thus, March 10 and 11, 2008, were set as a two-day planning meeting. The rest of this document is the result of that meeting.

Ann Brummitt • Director Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition

Milwaukee River Greenway Trail System A Shared Use Philosophy (2008) 

We, the Milwaukee River Work Group, believe in a “shared use” philosophy for sustainable trails in the Milwaukee River Greenway. The Milwaukee River Greenway is recognized by neighbors and governments as an environmental corridor that has tremendous value for native plants and animals to thrive, and provides an oasis within the city. We believe that with proper management and education the current non-motorized uses such as hiking, bird-watching, fishing, biking, dog-walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing should be honored and permitted in the corridor. We believe that users can share the corridor without destroying the natural habitats that exist. By sharing the trails, a wide variety of user needs can be accommodated. A shared use philosophy will foster people’s connection and sense of responsibility towards the river ecosystem. 

We also believe that there are certain areas (such as Cambridge Woods and the Quaker Preserve) that should be limited to nature observation (no biking or dog walking). In these areas bikers will be diverted around the sensitive areas or be asked to walk their bikes. Signs or symbols along shared trails would alert users to courteous behavior (e.g. bikers yield to hikers who yield to birders). Our philosophy institutes a hierarchy of yielding to the more passive/silent user. In rare cases for safety considerations (certain ADA sections or trail pinch points) bikers may be required to walk their bike but this would still allow for a continuous one-way loop trail around the Milwaukee River Greenway). This can be accomplished by routing around certain sensitive areas and private properties that lack easements. This trail will diminish congestion and reduce the conflicts between users. We believe that trick riding and trail creation for BMX bikes are harmful to the river habitat and thus should not be allowed. 

Other areas of the corridor would be designated for specific uses. An off-leash dog area could be established on the west bank south of Gordon Park. There would also be designated ADA trails from the East Bank through parts of Riverside Park. 

For shared use to work: 

Communication is crucial through signage, a website, and brochures that reinforce a culture of sharing. 

Involvement of user groups, neighborhood associations, and private property owners is necessary. 

Some areas will be set aside for limited, specific uses, for example, a “quiet” area for nature. 

When appropriate or necessary, user groups will be separated 

Trails will be designed to manage user conflicts. For example, narrow areas will include frequent bump-outs for passing. 

Simple 4×4 post signage can be used to indicate shared use with a symbol. It would include a wheel chair on the ADA trails and perhaps an off-leash dog symbol for that designated area. Where trails separate into specific uses, symbols would indicate the use. 

At street level, corridor entry signs could alert users with a YES sign for the following activities: hiking, bird watching, fishing, mountain biking, dog walking on leash (off leash in designated areas only) cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ADA trails available. 

Users will need to respect the corridor as an urban wildlife ecosystem and as a place for recreation. 

Users will need to be educated to respect, maintain, and improve the habitats within the river corridor 

Trails should be built and managed sustainably to minimize impact on the natural habitat. 

Users will need to comply with municipal, county, and state regulations. 

Users need to embrace a philosophy of self-enforcement of the shared use philosophy and not rely on scarce law enforcement resources. 


Note: This document was derived initially at a Meeting of the Milwaukee River Corridor Coalition on March 10, 2008. 

The Milwaukee River Corridor Coalition is an ad hoc group of current corridor users who meet quarterly to ensure that river restoration projects, trail building, research and educational activities are communicated and coordinated. Members include: The Urban Ecology Center, Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee River Work Group, The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County, National Park Service, Wisconsin Off Road Bicycle Association, and Ground Work Milwaukee.

The initial draft was presented to the Milwaukee River Work Group on April 23, 2008. The draft was edited and approved by MRWG on that date.