Parks Planning Oak Leaf Trail Projects
Seeking federal grant money to build new ramp and modernize bike paths.
The cash strapped parks department is always seeking new sources of revenue and struggles to fund even maintenance of the parks system. So it’s looking at a federal grant program aimed at reducing transportation related emissions called the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant to potentially make some investments and some repairs to the 130-mile Oak Leaf Trail network.
Sarah Toomsen, manager of planning and development for the department, explained to the County Board’s Parks, Energy and Environment Committee this month that the department sees the Oak Leaf as “a commuting resource as well as a recreational resource.”
With this in mind the department has developed what it’s calling the Hampshire Ramp Access Project. What it envisions is a ramp that connects the Oak Leaf trail to N. Cambridge Avenue, roughly two blocks north of E. Locust St.
There are access points in the area north and south of the Cambridge Woods neighborhood. One is a ramp near the Urban Ecology Center and Riverside University High School, the other is at the very north end of the neighborhood near E. Providence Avenue.
The project, Toomsen said, would create a point of access that many in the neighborhood have expressed support for. It also would provide a direct connection between UW-Milwaukee and the Oak Leaf, as E. Hampshire St. runs into the southwest corner of the university campus.
Recently, the parks department managed to cobble together funds to repair a major sinkhole in Glendale using a federal transportation grant and some private donations.
For this project, the department is planning to apply for $1.6 million in CMAQ funding. It’s also planning to submit a proposal for approximately $3.5 million more in grant funding.
This funding would pay for modernization work throughout the Oak Leaf network. There are more than a dozen sections of trail that lack the proper dimensions or construction standards for trails built today, Toomsen said, and some segments that are failing structurally.
This work is not currently eligible under the CMAQ guidelines, but Toomsen said the department is working to convince the state Department of Transportation, which disburses the grants for the Federal Transit Administration, to approve the projects for CMAQ eligibility.
The department also plans to include a project in its application that would fund painting a bridge over I-43 along the Zip Line section of the Oak Leaf. The painting work would be to preserve the surfaces of the bridge, as well as advertise the trail as a commuting option.
The board’s committee unanimously approved the parks department’s proposed application.