Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Board’s Bike Trails Resolution Fails

A proposed ordinance change would have given the board final authority over major trail alterations.

By - Apr 22nd, 2021 07:54 pm
Oak Leaf Trail - Zip Line. Photo taken October 20th, 2020 by Jeramey Jannene.

Oak Leaf Trail – Zip Line. Photo taken October 20th, 2020 by Jeramey Jannene.

A controversial change to the way Milwaukee County Parks manages bike trails was narrowly voted down Thursday by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.

The proposed legislation would have given the board the final approval of any major alterations made to bike trails in Milwaukee County.

The resolution was originally written in 2019 by Supervisor John Weishan, Jr. in response to changes the parks department was planning to make to the Kegel-Alpha Trail, which runs through Whitnall Park and the historic Mangan Woods.

Some neighbors along the woods were unhappy with the proposed trail changes that would bring the trail closer to their lot lines. While some advocates for Milwaukee’s parks and natural areas were concerned that the parks department was adding additional mountain bike trails to the woods.

Sup. Willie Johnson, Jr. noted that SEWRPC has designated Mangan Woods a “natural area of regional significance.” Sup. Patti Logsdon, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said they were pushing the ordinance change because, “we want to save the park, save the paths for everybody, the walkers, the mountain bikers.”

But the resolution, beyond instituting a temporary moratorium on mountain biking in the woods, did not directly address damage to plants and the old growth forest. It instead gave final approval of any bike trail additions and modifications to the county board.

Sup. Anthony Staskunas, a co-sponsor of the resolution, explained, “When we have a significant and substantial change to trails in our parks system, the board should have some input.”

The proposal was debated for hours over two committee meetings. Changes were made to the original resolution through two amendments. The first walked back approval over any changes made to bike trails, making it approval over changes to 20% or more of a bike trail. The second amendment further clarified this by making it 20% of the total length of the trail.

The opponents ultimately thought the ordinance was an example of the county board micromanaging a parks department task, which the supervisors do not have direct expertise in.

“I would warn my colleagues against venturing into an area that is not the subject of our expertise,” said Sup. Jason Haas, “I don’t know very much about trail maintenance or construction.”

Supervisors Haas and Ryan Clancy voted against the ordinance change. Both said they were concerned about encroachments by private business and nearby neighbors into the woods. But, as Clancy said, “These are issues that we can address without wresting control of creating new trails from the parks department.”

Weishan, the author of the legislation, said it was a “common sense approach to try and balance the uses of a particular area.” He further explained that the resolution sought to create a process that “allows everyone to have a voice” in major changes to county trails.

The parks department did hold a public meeting on the proposed changes in 2019. Though, opponents and proponents of the resolution alike said they would like to see better public outreach by the department.

Supervisor Shawn Rolland said, “I guess I am not prepared to make the leap that we have lost complete faith in their ability to enact those processes and therefore the county board should.”

Read Urban Milwaukee’s earlier coverage of the proposal here.

One thought on “MKE County: Board’s Bike Trails Resolution Fails”

  1. Mingus says:

    This ordinance is something out of the Scott Walker/Robin Voss political playbook. Power and decision making is taken away from the professional staff and put into the hands of elected officials whom can then easily advance legislation for special interest groups and campaign donors to the detriment of the good public policy.

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