Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Two New Oak Leaf Connections Planned for 2023

One trail would extend network on city's far northwest side while another would connect Milwaukee and Racine counties.

By - Oct 19th, 2022 12:26 pm

Kohl Park proposed trail map. Milwaukee County Parks.

Two long-planned Milwaukee County Parks trail projects would be funded through the 2023 budget.

Both projects will create new trail connections to the 135-mile Oak Leaf Trail network. “These are two more great connections on opposite corners of the county,” said Jeremy Lucas, parks director of administration and planning. One would even close a trail gap between Milwaukee and Racine counties.

The projects will create connections to the Oak Leaf from Bender Park in Oak Creek and Kohl Park on the far north side of Milwaukee in the Granville neighborhood. Both projects were first proposed in 2007 as part of the county’s Trail Network Plan. Parks already has the new trail routes preliminarily mapped out, but these could change depending on the planning process, as well as the natural topography and stormwater drainage, Lucas said.

In 2020, the projects were awarded grant funding under the federal Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program. The Bender Park project was awarded approximately $1.3 million, and the Kohl Park extension was awarded $1.9 million. These federal grants require a 20% match from local governments.

The 2023 recommended budget includes $224,510 for the Bender Park Project and $336,010 for the Kohl Park project. The parks department had previously sought funding through the Nelson-Knowles Stewardship Program managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Kohl Park Connection

When first imagined in the 2007 trails plan, parks planners said this trail would serve as a valuable connection to the Oak Leaf, “but also will provide improved access into Kohl Park, which currently has little access for area residents.”

The project involves building a 2.36-mile trail through Kohl Park, which sits on the south side of W. County Line Road and is generally bounded by between N. Swan Road on the west and the subdivision that surrounds A.C. Hanson Park on the east. The trail will connect to the Brown Deer Trail and The Zip Line section of the Oak Leaf, which provides a mixed-use trail to Brown Deer Park, Estabrook Park and ultimately into Downtown.

The Zip Line was built in 2015 primarily along three miles of abandoned railroad corridor that used to belong to Union Pacific. Something like it was originally proposed as part of the Kohl Park project in the 2007 trails plan, which called for a trail corridor that went through Brown Deer and A.C. Hansen parks into Kohl Park.

Bender Park Connection

Bender Park Oak Leaf Trail Connection Project. Milwaukee County Parks.

The Bender Park project is being developed in two phases. The first phase has already been built. It provides a trail between E. Drexel Avenue near the Oak Creek River Parkway and Bender Park. This trail was made possible by an easement from We Energies. The section of trail on We Energies property is currently a gravel trail, as the utility has plans to upgrade the gas main along the trail and parks does not want to pay to have the trail paved twice.

The second phase of the project involves building a trail through Bender Park that connects to the Racine County Trail system. “This project closes a key trail network gap and creates a 20-mile long continuous bike facility between and through Milwaukee and Racine Counties,” according to the parks department.

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Categories: Transportation

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