Honoring Hank Aaron By connecting communities to the Hank Aaron State Trail

For the past decade The Wisconsin Bike Fed has partnered with the Friends of The Hank Aaron State Trail (FoHAST). Our partnership has brought bicycle programming to over 2,000 young people in Milwaukee.

Together we continue our work to honor Hank Aaron's legacy with special focus on achieving Mr. Aaron's mission to improve access to his namesake trail for black and latinx Milwaukeeans.

In 2020 during this difficult time of Covid-19 the Bike Fed we adapted our programming to build new models of engagement.

The Hank Aaron State Trail has been a boon to the restoration of native ecology in the Menomonee River Valley. It also connects people to some of Milwaukee's landmarks destinations. You can get all the way from the Lake Michigan to Brookfield using this trail; truly connecting multiple communities.

Now that the trail's western terminus is completed. You can even connect the Oak Leaf Trail, then the New Berlin Trail to Waukesha, then hop on the Glacial Drumlin and ride all the way to Madison!

Still, there is much work to be done connecting Milwaukee's communities to the trail. The Bike Fed and Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail (FoHAST) are dedicated to promoting equity and inclusion along the trail.

The biggest obstacle for many people who live near the trail is simply accessing it. Milwaukee's legacy of segregation is acutely felt along the Hank Aaron State Trail, with the Menomonee Valley being a historic point of separation. Additionally, the location of I-94 on the Northside of the trail exacerbates these issues of segregation and access. The communities along the trail have truly been overwhelmed by cars; increasing levels of environmental injustice.

Much of the work we do in honor of Hank Aaron is to address these inequities and promote the trail as a place of unity.

We work to continue building Milwaukee's bicycle culture so that families have they tools and skills they need to access this amazing resource.

We aim to build not only a place to escape cars and pollution but also to serve as a place where we can gather and feel connected to the history of this place.

Students from a summer camp learning how to safely navigate streets en route to the Hank Aaron State Trail.

Stopped at an intersection on National Avenue these young people are ready to perform a zipper merge when the light turns green, returning to single file formation.

One of the major program responses to Covid-19 that FoHAST and the Bike Fed made was to pilot a Youth Trail Ambassador Program.

Three young people representing three different communities along the trail met every Saturday in October.

Through exploration by bike we learned about the history of the valley and how cars have impacted development and public health in Milwaukee.

Kahliah, left, has done several bike camps with the Bike Fed through her involvement with the Kellogg PEAK Initiative.

We rode not only on the trail, but also explored connections to the trail for places that were important to our young cyclists.

This is a stop at Tiefenthaler Park, where PEAK is building a brand new community center.

FoHAST and the Bike Fed with the support of Quad Graphics and Near West Side Partners have plans to print and install wayfinding signs from this new center on Milwaukee's Northside to the 32nd street access point of the trail.

Pratihk, our young rider from Brookfield, buzzes past historic architecture on Milwaukee's near west side.

By using the trail and zipping through neighborhoods our Ambassadors developed a stronger sense of our community's history and their place in moving Milwaukee forward.

Stopping by Marquette and discussing how students can get onto the trail.

This is a location where a little extra care and signage could transform how people interact with and use the trail system.

The front of the bicycle is full of blank corrugated plastic to be used to create a mock wayfinding project.

The Ambassadors determined how much time it would take and walk to the trail from each location we stopped.

We are really excited to professionally render and install these signs in Spring of 2021.

They project will be durable enough to last for 2 years and will help us leverage support for more permanent investments.

Mr. Aaron's involvement and support of the work of FoHAST was not only to create an amazing trail but to help make meaningful connections.

FoHAST and the Bike Fed also collaborated on a new model of Family Bicycle Workshops.

We created experiences uniquely tailored to family needs to get them out on the trail.

Families came from both the North and South sides of Milwaukee.

Identifying where we are on a map.

This family lives quite close to the trail but we decided to meet at the Urban Ecology Center to ease access.

On this ride we identified a closer access point for this family, so now the have the skills and knowledge to make the Hank Aaron State Trail a treasured family pastime.

Even the little ones got in on the mapping fun!

These girls rode all the way from the Urban Ecology Center to the Soldiers Home!

A major component of our Family Bicycle Workshops was bicycle maintenance. Safe Routes Instructor, Eric Crouthamel, is pictured here getting us trail ready.

The joy of making it full circle! What a fun adventure.

Other families chose to leave from their houses and learn how to get to the trail safely as a unit.

With special nature lessons on the way!

Keep an eye out for signs of beavers.

A stop at the play field is always on the agenda. Barb loves sharing stories about Hank Aaron.

His spirit lives in this place and the fact that it is so accessible to the community is a beautiful thing.

Bike Fed lead mechanic, Anthony Casagrande, working on getting bikes out into the community.

If you ever have a bike in need of a home, The Bike Fed, Dreambikes, and FoHAST can help get families moving.

While Mr. Aaron is no longer with us his legacy lives on.

His story lives in the journey and experiences of the young people who get to learn about their community and build lifelong connections.

To support and learn more about the work of FoHAST visit their website, https://www.hankaaronstatetrail.org/about-hank-aaron.

As always your Bike Fed Membership and continued support is a vital piece of keeping this work going and indeed Mr. Aaron's legacy alive.

Created By
Michael Anderson


Michael J Anderson, Wisconsin Bike Fed