Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Plans Walker’s Point Water Trail

A Water Centric City tells its story. Trail could include a beach, public art, other attractions.

By - Feb 26th, 2020 10:41 am
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Water Street Beach. Rendering by Chemistry in Place.

Water Street Beach. Rendering by Chemistry in Place.

A new initiative aims to build on Milwaukee’s connection to its rivers and lake through the creation of the Water Current Tour walking trail.

The trail, centered on Walker’s Point, will link the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences and inner harbor on E. Greenfield Ave. with the Global Water Center and Reed Street Yards water-focused business park at N. 2nd St. and W. Freshwater Way. Design concepts introduced in a preliminary report include everything from a new beach and interactive public art to educational signage and wayfinding signage.

Led by the city’s Environmental Collaboration Office, a one-day design workshop brought together stakeholders to envision locations and concepts for art, markers, decorative crosswalks and other signage. Representatives of SmithGroup, Ce Planning Studio, CODAworx, GRAEF, Stormwater Solutions Engineering and Chemistry in Place generated design concepts alongside city officials and neighborhood stakeholders. The workshop was funded by the Fund for Lake Michigan.

The trail would run from the east end of E. Greenfield Ave. at the newly constructed Harbor View Plaza west to S. 2nd St. where it would head north to W. Freshwater Way and the Milwaukee RiverWalk.

Three different design teams generated concepts for everything from projecting a light-up mural on the side of Rockwell Automation‘s headquarters and installing artistic lighting under bridges in the area to building a beach on a vacant lot at N. Water St. and E. Seeboth St. and creating a permanent Water Centric City exhibit at the Wisconsin Center.

But work would start with more affordable projects, including wayfinding and signage, said ECO director Erick Shambarger in an interview. “I think we could get some pretty good stuff for $150,000,” said Shambarger in describing the vision for the first phase.

The report says the trail is intended to be inviting and safe, delightful and inspiring, and affordable and implementable. The first phase would include educational signage, wayfinding, window film displays, artistic screening of surface parking lots, designed crosswalks, art featuring native animals and painted “watershed moments” markers that highlight the three watersheds connected to Walker’s Point.

Shambarger said there is currently $20,000 available for the project, including $15,000 in city streetscaping funds. “We are still in the fundraising phase.”

The initial projects are intended to be installed by June 2020, while more complicated and expensive projects would come later. “The purpose of the tour is to draw attention to and celebrate the great work being done around water in Milwaukee, so each feature must creatively inform people while still feeling whimsical, interactive, and delightful,” says the ECO workshop report.

The trail is intended to ultimately connect with the Milwaukee RiverWalk system, ultimately guiding users as far north as E. North Ave.

“Milwaukee is defined by water. Native communities settled here because of it. Our history was shaped by it and our future depends on it. At the confluence of three great rivers pouring into the largest freshwater resource on the planet, we’re not just the Midwest. We’re a coastal city on America’s Fresh Coast,” says a city report highlighting the potential project. “But it’s more than just proximity to these resources that makes our city special. Many cities are lucky enough to find themselves positioned along the Great Lakes or even a great river, but Milwaukee is rising to the occasion in a novel way. We’re a Water Centric City filled with passionate leaders and innovative thinkers working to protect our shared watershed and communities. We have a collective water story worth sharing.

An ECO report gives a long list of project supporters including the Brico Fund, City as a Living Lab, Clean Wisconsin, Freshwater Tool Kit, Greater Milwaukee Committee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Harbor District, Julilly Kohler, Lybra Loest, Milwaukee Food Tours, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Milwaukee Water Commons, Plastic-Free MKE, Reflo, Rockwell Automation, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, UW-Milwaukee, VISIT Milwaukee, The Water Council, Walker’s Point Association and the Department of Natural Resources.

The work will complement Mary MissWaterMarks project underway in the area as well as efforts by the Harbor District to improve access to the waterfront and a new riverwalk extension planned along the harbor and Kinnickinnic River.

Initial Concepts

Long Range Options

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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City Plans Walker’s Point Water Trail”

  1. Sam C says:

    No one is gonna want to sit on hot sand without some way of cooling off. There’s a reason beaches are popular and it’s not because of the sand.

  2. israldebruin says:

    Head down to Bradford Beach in the summer and you’ll see PLENTY of people who hang out for hours without ever going in the water. Same with many beaches in LA.

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