WEST ALLIS, WI (CBS 58) – A concrete barricade has blocked the Hank Aaron State Trail at S. 76e Street since August 4.
State Fair Police closed the trail through Aug. 14, noting safety concerns with potential fairground access points.
On Saturday afternoon, cyclists recorded a ‘memorial’ at the barrier – photographs and stories of people injured in cycling accidents – highlighting the need for safer routes.
“We just had in the state of Wisconsin last month two bicycle fatalities. I had co-workers killed on bicycles. There was a bicycle accident a mile from my house,” said cyclist Andy Frievalt.
“I want to pressure the State Fair not to endanger the lives of cyclists in the future,” Frievalt said.
With the trail closing unexpectedly earlier this month, cyclists have been forced to cycle through congested roads.
“These roads are always busy here, but certainly during the State Fair. We have thousands of people on the road, and we have people who aren’t from here and aren’t used to bikes sharing the streets with them,” said Michelle Kramer, who serves on the board of directors for the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail.
Members of the group planned to display their frustration on Saturday with a memorial ride around the fairgrounds, but the statement instead turned into an open discussion between bikers and State Fair executives.
Chairman of the fair’s board of directors, John Yingling, citing visitor safety as his biggest concern.
“Someone could easily walk on this path, slip into it, be hidden away from us, from you,” Yingling said, noting other acts of violence at major events across the country, “It’s a constantly changing world, and you adapt or not adapt. It is my obligation, my responsibility to adapt.
Cyclists say their safety is at stake with alternatives not ideal for some commuters, a lack of communication on the planned closure.
“They put lockdowns in place. No warnings, nothing,” Frievalt said.
Yingling said he intentionally chose not to notify the public before the closing – a decision made just days before the fair began.
“You don’t telegraph your movements to people trying to plan illegal activities on the ground,” Yingling said.
The Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail Board of Directors continues conversations with state leaders, pushing for a better outcome next year.
“Wisconsin State Fair has an opportunity to be a great community partner and really work with stakeholders, to work with DNR to come up with creative solutions,” Kramer said.
There have been no announcements regarding plans for next year’s fair and trail access at other events at the fairgrounds.
The 2022 State Fair ends Sunday evening.