Jane’s Walks Are a Cool Way to Explore Milwaukee Neighborhoods in May

Explore — and perhaps reimagine — neighborhoods during free guided tours this month.

More than two dozen free, citizen-led walking, biking, paddling and transit tours will bring people together this month thanks to an organization called Jane’s Walk MKE. Participants will explore, talk about and celebrate Milwaukee’s many neighborhoods as part of a movement in about 200 cities worldwide to honor the legacy of renowned urban-advocate and author Jane Jacobs (1916-2006). Now it’s its third year, Jane’s Walk MKE has expanded to offer events for an entire month, not just during the first weekend in May as most other cities do.

Although some walks will discuss history, architecture and urbanism, others will focus on natural areas, having fun (such as doing “Fluxus” dances on Brady Street) or otherwise “activating” places.

Walks are planned in many neighborhoods, including in often-overlooked places. Here are several to consider:

Sherman Park

Saturday, May 12, 1-3 p.m.

Jane Jacobs; photo courtesy of Jane’s Walks

Arijit Sen and Bella Biwer will lead a 2.5-mile walk that starts at the former Finney Library (4243 W. North Ave.), zigzags through the Center Peace Neighborhood and concludes at Tricklebee Café (4424 W. North Ave.). Sen is an architect and vernacular architecture historian in UW-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Biwer is Sen’s research assistant in the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School. Walkers will “identify important sites of heritage and culture in the neighborhood and discuss strategies to keep the neighborhood safe and well-maintained.”

East Side

Saturday, May 19, 2:30-4 p.m.

Jamin Creed Rowan, Brigham Young University assistant professor and author of The Sociable City, will lead a walk and assessment of the areas around Downer Avenue and North Avenue business districts. He will be joined by his friend Michael Carriere, associate professor of history at Milwaukee School of Engineering. Discussion will focus on Jane Jacobs’ ideas about strong neighborhoods and their relevance to the current — and perhaps future — status of the East Side’s built environment, public spaces and residents.

Milwaukee River Greenway

Sunday, May 20, 10 a.m.-noon

This two-mile tour starts and ends at the River Revitalization Foundation (2134 N. Riverboat Road). It will be led by Riverwest civic leader Vince Bushell and Eddee Daniel. Daniel calls the greenway “one of the greatest urban natural areas in the country.” They will share knowledge about wildlife and the history and significance of the greenway and examine the ruins of a long-gone resort.

Many More Walks Lined Up

– At least five walks are planned for Saturday, May 5 (though none yet with a Cinco de Mayo theme) — in Bay View, Lindsay Heights, Riverwest, Walker’s Point and from the Near West Side to the lakefront.

– Later walks will explore a future Riverwalk extension, Downtown’s all-but-forgotten MacArthur Square, Hawthorne Glen, East Town, Jones Island, Milwaukee’s “Food Roots” and Three Bridges Park.

– Mother’s Day events include a “Picnic & Paddle” adventure and a 10-mile bike ride to check out Milwaukee’s clean-water infrastructure.

– See the full lineup of events and register for a walk on the Jane’s Walk website

Attend the Kickoff

Jane’s Walk MKE will kick off Wednesday, May 2, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. with a free event at Turner Hall Ballroom. There will be expo-style sharing of community resources and projects, a diverse panel on “Seeding Grassroots City Building,” as well as food, music and spoken word. Attendees may chat with walk leaders and learn how to host a walk. Event sponsors, Milwaukee Turners and ZIP MKE, will be joined by many community partners.

Editor’s Note: Virginia Small is a volunteer with Jane’s Walk MKE’s Organizing Committee