Neighbors' interest in plans for a site on the southeast corner of Teutonia Avenue and Green Bay Road superseded the weather as approximately 100 people came to listen Jan. 29 to the River Revitalization Foundation's plans for the site.
Representatives of Milwaukee County were also present to explain the proposed route of a bike and pedestrian path that would travel from Brown Deer Park down a utility right of way, pass through a corner of the foundation's property and eventually link with other bike trails in Brown Deer.
The foundation intends to bring the land back to its predevelopment condition.
"We will conduct habitat and stream restoration on the site," said Kimberly Gleffe, executive director of the foundation.
That will include removal of invasive species, such as buckthorn and garlic mustard, and work on the east bank of South Branch Creek, which passes through the property on its way to the Milwaukee River. Native trees and plants will be planted, replacing the invasives.
Land on a portion of the east side of the creek would be lowered and would act as a storage area for water during periods of heavy rains or runoff, acting much like a detention pond during brief periods of time. Village Manager Russell Van Gompel said that would help the village control stormwater.
"We look for partners in stormwater control rather than having to raise stormwater utility fees or taxes," he said.
The village will provide assistance to RRF on the site should the foundation receive a $99,000 Coastal Management grant. That application is pending. The application calls for $79,000 of assistance from the village, which is less than the $800,000 estimated cost for a stormwater detention pond once planned for the land.
Plans call for the site to be a passive green space without any amenities. A 4-foot-high concrete turtle, funded by a $2,000 grant from the Mary Noll Foundation, would be the only addition to the site. The turtle would commemorate the original owner of the property, Richard Koch, and those who have made donations for the site. Koch, who was the first Brown Deer village president, once had a house on the site.
The proposed bike/pedestrian path concerned many who said they fear the path could bring crime and graffiti to the area. Police Lt. Peter Nimmer said the department has had no problems with crime along the bike path between Brown Deer and County Line roads.
Kevin Haley of the Milwaukee County Parks Department said the proposed route would travel over the creek at the RRF site and then cross Teutonia Avenue at a midpoint between the railroad trestle to the south and the Green Bay-Teutonia intersection to the north. A small bridge would be placed over the creek. The path would link the Oak Leaf Trail with other bike trails in the area.
While the RRF park site is a permitted use in the area, the bike path is a conditional permitted use, meaning that when plans for the path are completed, the village Plan Commission would hold a public hearing on a request for a permit and then decide if it is appropriate for the area.
Some residents in attendance said they walk on the existing path, which would be paved should the county plan proceed. Opinions on whether the path would help or hurt the immediate neighborhood were mixed, but several bicyclists in the audience said bike paths are generally safe places.
"As a biker, I ride on the trails in the county, over on the east side, through Estabrook Park," resident John La Fave said. "If there are more cyclists and more walkers, the areas are safer."
Christopher Jaekels, RRF board president, said the foundation wants the neighborhood to be involved with the site and invited the neighbors to volunteer for the project.
In coming months, the county will bring plans for the bike path to the village Plan Commission. The commission will hold a public hearing on the request before the commission votes.
Mary Buckley can be reached at (262) 446-6615.
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