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Heart of the action
Outdoor venues worth checking out


October 2013

Three Bridges Park

Valley Green

The recently opened Three Bridges Park in the Menomonee Valley is the latest step in the transformation of a long-abandoned rail yard into a popular destination for families and a growing number of businesses and employees in the area. The 24-acre park, located between downtown Milwaukee and Miller Park along the Menomonee River, features trails, three new bike/pedestrian bridges, access to the river for fly fishing and canoeing, public art and diverse habitats for native plants and wildlife.

"This is a great asset to area neighborhoods that until now lacked a nearby, natural recreational area and it will significantly help with revitalization efforts in these communities," says Laura Bray, executive director of Menomonee Valley Partners Inc., who notes Milwaukee is a national model for urban revitalization. Work on the park will continue for several years featuring additional plantings, construction of gathering areas and installation of community gardens.

Rockin’ It

If you are hearing the call of the wild it’s probably coming from The Rock Sports Complex in Franklin where mountain bikers and ball players have had the run of the place all summer long. The Rock’s 12 baseball fields hosts leagues for adult and youth baseball and adult and fast- pitch softball, and are considered among the best in the country.

But The Rock also attracts enthusiasts from sports that have fewer available venues, such as BMX biking. The complex contains the only Gravity Bike Park in the Midwest, with 13 trails and seven miles of cross-country mountain bike trails.

"Our BMX track will be the second largest in the country," says general manager Tom Johns. "And it will have the same specs as the Olympics."

You can also "Learn to Rock" with the help of trained instructors in downhill biking, skiing and snowboarding. The Rock’s snow parks employ the same snow-making company that will work the 2014 Olympics and contain multiple layouts for the aforementioned skiing and snowboarding and also snow tubing.

Selig-Joseph-Folz Amphitheater

For the Dogs

It’s been a good year for local dog owners and their four-footed friends as the Currie Park dog exercise area in Wauwatosa underwent a 10-acre expansion and construction of a new off-the-leash dog exercise area in Bay View got underway. "DEAs are a great place for the dog owners to meet new people and kindle relationships with other like-minded individuals and enjoy nature," says Jeff Baudry, Milwaukee County Parks marketing director.

In the bigger picture, Baudry says DEAs help improve communities. "A healthy dog is a well-exercised dog, and that can translate into a dog that is more obedient and barks less. That can trickle down to happier neighbors."

Skyline Views

On what was a litter-strewn, crime-ridden patch of land 10 years ago is now an architecturally stunning amphitheater and green space. Through a public-private partnership, the Selig-Joseph-Folz Amphitheater at Kadish Park hosted the COA Youth & Family Centers 7th annual Skyline Music series this summer. The facility boasts lighting and acoustics for performers on stage, terraced seating for audience members and improved park access for pedestrians, bicycles and those using wheelchairs or strollers.

Donors to the COA project included namesakes Bud and Sue Selig, Leon and Bonnie Joseph and the families of Richard and Susan Folz. Designed by Milwaukee’s HGA Architects, it received the Mayor’s 2013 Design Award.

The Rock Sports Complex

River Tour

Milwaukee Kayak Co. ­— appropriately located on Water Street, 318 N. Water St. in the Third Ward on the banks of the Milwaukee River — paddled into the local business world this summer, offering kayak, canoe and stand-up paddle board rentals. "It’s a unique and healthy experience people can share with their family and friends," says owner Beth Handle. "They are getting a workout, experiencing our city from a different perspective and connecting with nature in an urban setting." Handle says longtime landlubbers need not fear because most everyone can learn to kayak. But to make sure that first nudge into the harbor goes smoothly, her company provides on-land instruction and fits paddlers for a boat and life-jacket.

Milwaukee's Soldiers Home Historic District
Photography by Megan Daniels

A Walk Through History

Take a walking tour of the Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home Historic District by downloading the free app on iTunes or Google Play. (It’s also available for MP3 players.) The walking tour app includes historical photos, audio narration and historical facts about the national historic landmark on the grounds of the VA Medical Center.

"Though the Milwaukee Soldiers Home has been around for more than a century, there are still many people in the area that have never walked the grounds," says Genell Scheurell, senior field officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Opened in 1867, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home is one of three original Soldiers Homes in the country to provide holistic care for veterans. Located on 90-plus acres just west of Miller Park, the site includes a post office, library, recreation hall, theater, chapel, lake, multiple recreational areas, as well as Old Main, the original domiciliary. In recent years there have been numerous gains by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance to preserve the landmark buildings and grounds.


This story ran in the October 2013 issue of: