I have been a long-time supporter of building the Beerline Bike and Pedestrian Trail from Gordon Park down to Riverboat Road, and I am proud this was accomplished. I work with River Revitalization Foundation; their mission as well as my own is to improve all people’s access to river lands and water while restoring as best we can the habitat along the river.
I believe that not encouraging people to use this resource in the middle of our city is elitist. Most of these lands are not pristine nature areas. Nor have they been since 1835, when rapid development began in Milwaukee.
The amount of recent money invested in the landscape between North Ave and and Locust Street is extraordinary by any measure. Millions of dollars have been spent to improve habitat and access to the public in the one mile of river from the old North Avenue dam site to Locust Street.
This brings us to the proposed Rivercrest/Adventure Rock development.
In my opinion, the parcel in question is landfill. In fact, the whole area that used to be the Humboldt Railroad Yards is landfill.
The Beerline Railroad was the second oldest rail line in the state of Wisconsin. The slopes are landfill.
The site is now lawn grasses. The slope is majority non-native herbs and the trees are dominated by white poplar and buckthorn in the understory, both considered invasive species.
This site should be developed and we should welcome the jobs the rock climbing gym will bring and the additional visitors to Riverwest and its businesses. The slope should be developed as a short link to the Milwaukee County Oak Leaf Trail, the Beerline Segment.
Bob Monnat promised that this link would happen when discussions were held during the 2003 development, and he has maintained it would happen when this phase of the development occurs. This would help people, bicycles, wheelchair users, and baby strollers avoid the North Avenue Street crossing. It would also help students who want to avoid the hassle and danger of the street crossing without signals at Riverview Hall. Finally, it would also allow users of the climbing wall gym easy access by bicycle.
It better serves everyone if the green spaces are joined, and avoid having a small green space next to busy North Avenue. The “orphan” green triangle should have paths, more shade trees and benches. The bluff of the combined green space should have improved landscape plantings – hopefully native species that support bird species and provide fall color.
This could be a win-win-win for people, business and nature. Some will try to define it as lose-lose-lose. We need to be wary of “the sky is falling” messages. Most of their claims are uninformed at best.
This project is a good thing. We call on County Supervisor Willie Johnson, Jr., as our representative on the Milwaukee County Board and resident along our Milwaukee County Trail, along with Ald. Kovac, help to deliver it for posterity’s sake. And we call on the Mandel Group to deliver on their promise of a trail connection.