Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Parks Finds Support for Tosa Road-To-Trail Project

A section of Underwood Creek Parkway would become mixed-use trail.

By - Apr 17th, 2024 11:25 am

Early design estimates for Underwood Creek Parkway trail conversion. Milwaukee County Parks.

Milwaukee County Parks is moving to replace a section of the Underwood Creek Parkway with a mixed-use trail.

The Underwood Creek Parkway runs around the northern edge of the Milwaukee County Grounds between Mayfair Road and the Menomonee River, going past Hansen Park Golf Course, the UW-Extension Gardens, the county’s Wil-O-Way Facility and Wisconsin Lutheran College athletic facilities. Parks is looking at converting a portion of the roadway, between the entrance to the college’s baseball diamond and the entrance to the gardens, to a mixed-use trail. The conversion parks has in mind would be partial, and would not cut off automobile access to any of the destinations in the area.

The department is finding support for the project among local constituents and the supervisor who represents them on the board, which isn’t always the case.

Parks and its consultant on the project, civil engineering firm Kapur & Associates, held a public meeting in March that found near unanimous support for the partial trail conversion.

The vast majority of public comment cards collected at the meeting (23 out of 25) supported conversion, Tony Giron, parks community engagement manager told Urban Milwaukee. This support is also born out in online comments on a webpage for the project, which indicate the roadway is already popular among cyclists and runners.

In recent years, Parks has pursued a policy of removing concrete from the system wherever it can. There are more than 60 miles of roadways and 142 acres of parking lots in the system. In 2023, approximately half of the department’s infrastructure funding went to roads and parking lots. The department wants to reduce the amount of funding it has to dedicate to concrete surfaces that don’t directly create recreational opportunities. What’s more, reducing the footprint of roadways and parking lots is an environmental win as they are sources of polluted stormwater runoff.

Trails are also cheaper to build and maintain than roads, and conversion projects represent long-term savings for the parks system.

The department has two options for Underwood Creek Parkway. The first option would have the department rebuild the parkway but convert a section to a trail. The second would simply rebuild the road. The partial conversion project is $300,000 cheaper than the full rebuild, according to estimates by Kapur & Associates.

Rebuilding the road and converting a section of trail would cost the county an estimated $3.8 million. Simply rebuilding the entire parkway would cost an estimated $4.1 million.

Sup. Shawn Rolland, who represents the area, said he was “thrilled” to find support for the conversion project. “That design would fundamentally transform the experience for hikers and bikers, reduce our county’s concrete footprint, and still provide an option to drive cars to every beloved destination on the parkway,” he said.

The parkway was one of the first concerns he heard from constituents when he started on the board in 2020, Rolland said: “The amount of potholes on that thing is unbelievable.”

Parks doesn’t always find enthusiasm for trail conversion projects. In the Jackson Park neighborhood, the department faced strong resistance from nearby neighbors for a proposal to convert a section of Jackson Park Drive to a trail. And the two local supervisors also opposed the project and instead proposed a compromise that created less trail and maintained more roadway.

So far, only a very small minority have expressed support for rebuilding the entire Underwood Creek Parkway, according to Giron and Rolland.

I don’t want to devalue what they’re saying,” Rolland said. “But also, I think there’s a larger public good by making it a better trail for bikes, a better trail for pedestrians and still accessible for cars who need to go to the golf course to Wil-O-Way facility.”

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us