Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Area Supervisors Want Less Road-To-Trail Conversion In Jackson Park

'The trail will be wonderful for everybody else,' but not nearby residents, supervisor says.

By - Feb 24th, 2024 04:24 pm

The Jackson Park Roadway design option supervisors consider a compromise.

For more than a year, neighbors in Jackson Park have been criticizing a Milwaukee County Parks project that is still just a concept.

The idea is to rebuild a section of Jackson Park Drive, which runs through the western section of the park, a narrow strip that meanders along the Kinnickinnic River. The roadway would be narrowed in some areas and become a bike and pedestrian trail only from about 51st to 58th St. While there are houses on Jackson Park Drive, those located along the proposed change to a bike and pedestrian trail all have alternative access to the street grid.

The proposal has nonetheless caused an uproar among some neighbors, who have organized a group against the project called Save Jackson Park Drive, and circulated a list of grievances that run the gamut from lower property values to increased crime. Recently, the two supervisors whose district borders converge at the roadway came out against full conversion.

Supervisors Peter Burgelis and Juan Miguel Martinez released a statement saying they would not support full conversion and suggested parks pursue a “compromise” design, as Burgelis described it, that converts much less of the roadway — just two blocks — to trail. The compromise design was developed by the Parks department upon Burgelis’ request.

The department still hasn’t presented a final project design to the board. “Capital improvement projects, like the Kinnickinnic River Parkway – Jackson Park Drive development, require thorough discussions, planning and time. There will be additional opportunities for elected officials and the public to weigh in on this project in the future,” a Parks spokesperson previously told Urban Milwaukee.

The department is expected to report its preferred design to the Committee on Parks and Culture in March. But Martinez told Urban Milwaukee he wants to put the issue to bed and has sponsored legislation that, if passed, would commit the board to the option favored by Burgelis and himself.

The idea is for the people on Jackson Park Drive to be able to have something that they are happy with, and something that parks can accommodate,” Martinez said.

Parks is pursuing the road-to-trail conversion in Jackson Park, and elsewhere in the county, as a matter of policy. The department has placed a premium on reducing the footprint of paved roads and parking lots within the system. These paved assets are incredibly expensive to maintain and eat up a huge chunk of the money the department has to maintain infrastructure. “Roads are killing us,” Deputy Parks Director James Tarantino previously said.

But the design favored by Burgelis and Martinez would maintain most of the roadway and build a new bike path alongside it while converting the road to trail only between S. 51st and S. 53rd streets. That will be more expensive to build up front and to maintain, as roadways are more expensive than trails.

Martinez seems otherwise in sympathy to the department’s policy and the public support for road-to-trail conversions outside of Jackson Park. “I guess what I really want to tell people is that as much as the trail will be wonderful for everybody else in Milwaukee County, these are the residents that are the most affected by this change,” he said. 

Asked if he thought concerns about homeless people camping on the trail were a legitimate reason to oppose conversion, Martinez said no. He declined to comment when asked how he squares his support for residents claiming the conversion would lead to increased sexual assaults, drug use and public drinking.

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2 thoughts on “MKE County: Area Supervisors Want Less Road-To-Trail Conversion In Jackson Park”

  1. 818yogic says:

    Can’t have your neighbors mad at you when you also need them to vote for you in two months. Terrible conflict of interest from Burgelis who I thought said he was going to abstain because he lived on this road?

  2. dmkrueger2 says:

    Not In My Back Yard: NIMBY

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