Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Oak Leaf Trail Could Be Extended in 2024

Federal funded trail connections planned in Kohl Park and Bender Park.

By - Jul 25th, 2023 05:48 pm

Kohl Park proposed trail map. Milwaukee County Parks.

Two new extensions of the Oak Leaf Trail network could be built in 2024.

Milwaukee County Parks has been working on these two trail extensions since 2020 when it was awarded federal grant funding. The extensions are along the northern and southern ends of the county, with one in Bender Park in Oak Creek and another in Kohl Park in the Granville Neighborhood of the City of Milwaukee. The Bender Park extension would close a trail gap between Milwaukee and Racine counties.

The projects were awarded grant funding in 2020 through the federal Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant program. The Bender Park trail received $1.3 million and the Kohl Park trail $1.9 million. These funds will cover most of the construction costs for the two projects.

Then, in 2023, the department received funding to begin designing the trail extensions, spending $336,010 for Kohl Park and $224,510 for Bender Park. Parks plans to request the rest of the funding needed to complete the projects in the 2024 budget. This funding will get the projects to the 20% local match required to use the CMAQ funds.

The total cost for the projects, including the federal funding, will come to approximately $2.9 million for Kohl Park and $2 million for Bender Park, with 80% of it coming from federal dollars, according to 2023 budget documents.

Jeremy Lucas, director of Administration and Planning, told Urban Milwaukee that design is ongoing and that if funding is allocated in the 2024 budget, construction could begin by spring 2024. Whether the projects make it into the final county budget is largely up to the Milwaukee County Board.

The infrastructure and maintenance budget request for the parks system regularly outstrips what parks officials expect to receive. That’s because the system has a maintenance backlog estimated at $500 million and in order to keep up with it the county would have to dedicate all infrastructure funding to the parks system.

Parks has had the two projects generally mapped out since 2007 when they were included in the county’s Trail Network Plan. The county recently received funding to update this plan, which has not been changed since then.

Kohl Park Trail

This trail will not only provide a connection to the wider Oak Leaf network, it will also provide greater access for nearby residents to 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.

If funded, construction will begin next year on a 2.36 mile trail through the park connecting to the Brown Deer Trail and The Zip Line, connecting it directly to Brown Deer Park, Estabrook Park and Downtown.

Bender Park Trail

The Bender Park connection would constitute approximately 9,800 linear feet of trail, paved 10 feet wide through Bender Park. It will close a trail gap, thereby creating a 20-mile bicycle trail between Milwaukee and Racine Counties.

It’s also the second phase of the project. The first phase was built on We Energies property provided to the county through an easement. It runs between E. Drexel Avenue near the Oak Creek River Parkway and Bender Park.

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

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