Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hank Aaron State Trail
by Jennifer Tomazic

MILWAUKEE -- Fall is a great time to take in the sites of Milwaukee by bike, but a group is working year round to make the Hank Aaron State Trail a nice place to go.

The group is the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail and it raises funds for the 12 mile route from Milwaukee's Lakefront to the Milwaukee-Waukesha County line. The money is spent on everything from locator signs, to signs spelling out the rich history of the Menomonee Valley.

"We have some great signs that link what was going on maybe a century ago in the valley, along the lakefront, up here on the bluff," said Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail board member Robert Peschel.

He says the group has even spent money on artwork that dots the trail, including three chairs that commemorate the Native American tribes in the area and restored antique bus shelter.

"They have done phenomenal things for the trail. They are my safety net but at the same time they kind of put the icing on the cake which enhancements that they've made to the trail," said trail manager Melissa Cook with the DNR.

She says the DNR can't maintain the trail alone and she is thankful for the many community partnerships, like the one with the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail, that help make it one of a kind.

The Hank Aaron State Trail has the distinction of being the only one in the state that is as close to such a big population-Cook says 415,000 people are within a 15 minute bike ride of the trail.

"It goes through densely developed neighborhoods, it's right next to industry at the same time being right in the center of our city," said Cook. "It gives people a chance to get down and have easy access to recreation where they might not have before."

Besides recreation, many bicyclists use the Hank Aaron State Trail as a way to get to work. Tom Schuler either runs or bikes to work in Milwaukee from Wauwatosa everyday.

"I see more and more people every week. More and more people along the trail and more and more fishermen, all enjoying what the trail has to offer," said Schuler.

Dan Graves also commutes to work by bike on the trail and enjoys getting his exercise in as part of his daily routine.

"It makes it so convenient. You're not wrestling with traffic at all because you have your own bike lane and it's safe too," said Graves. "I love it. it's super convenient."

The trail is right on the way to major attractions in the city like Miller Park and State Fair Park. The area was initially proposed as a park bearing the name of legendary baseball player, Hank Aaron, but the idea expanded to a much larger area and a state trail.

The Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail's biggest fundraiser is the Hank Aaron State Trail 5k Run / Walk in August. This year, the non-profit had more than 2,000 runners-the biggest field to date.

For more information on the friends group, log onto http://www.hankaaronstatetrail.org/ and for more information on the Hank Aaron State Trail http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/hankaaron/