Hank Aaron Trail in the Menomonee River Valley

Hits a Home Run

Once a railroad yard for the Milwaukee Road, the land adjacent to the Menonmonee River in Milwaukee has been restored to a more natural state, allowing wildlife to return and providing the public with outdoor recreational opportunities.

Description

The Hank Aaron Trail is a 12-mile long trail along the Menomonee River that has combined prairie restoration, stormwater management, and habitat to help improve water quality, while providing a recreational opportunity for the public. A former railroad yard for the Milwaukee Road and other brownfield sites along the Menomonee were slowly eroding into the river, degrading water quality and providing little habitat for local wildlife. By restoring the land, the river has also benefited through erosion control. The installation of managed wetlands helps filter and absorb the rainwater that falls on the land, reversing erosion and limiting the pollution in the river. The north side of the river hosts a new industrial park with ponds to filter runoff before it enters the Menomonee. Uncontaminated slag from the old brownfield site has been turned into a park on the south side of the river. Pathways along the trail allow the public to enjoy the outdoor space, by biking, running, skating, or just leisurely walking.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Pollution from brownfield site
  • Polluted runoff
  • Sediment build up
  • Erosion
  • Lack of river habitat

MENOMONEE RIVER RESTORATION 

Aerial view of the Hank Aaron Trail in Milwaukee, Wis.

A bird’s eye view from fall 2012 of the old Milwaukee Road rail yard during restoration, now reconstructed into the Three Bridges Park along the Hank Aaron Trail. Photo credit: Redevelopment Authority for the City of Milwaukee.

Results and Accomplishments

The Menomonee has had its riverbanks restored, preventing erosion from adding sediment to the river. Boulder clusters have also increased the complexity of the river, allowing a variety of aquatic habitats to form. Native prairie plants have been returned to the park, while invasive species like Crown Vetch and Purple Loosestrife are being eradicated. Wetlands and a River Lawn flood plain have been installed to absorb and filter the water from flooding events.