My wife seemed amused, with just a hint of mocking, when I returned home from a six-hour bike ride Saturday and joyfully showed her the eight stamps I collected in my Oak Leaf Discovery Tour Passport.
Not only does she have one-year-old twin girls in the house, but apparently a 49-year-old little boy, as well.
I hope she appreciates my youthful enthusiasm for the promotional program, launched by the Park People of Milwaukee County, to encourage residents and tourists to explore the trail that winds through the county parks.
The pocket-sized passport has information on 14 locations along the Oak Leaf Trail, and spaces to collect stamps from each of them, documenting ones travels. With a minimum of eight stamps, the passports are the ticket to a prize drawing at the Oak Leaf Discovery Tour Party & Concert, Sept. 15, in Estabrook Park. (Details on the passports can be found here.
Many will find the prizes a secondary reward for touring the lakefront, rivers and wooded sanctuaries along the trail.
“The purpose is to get people out and active and to rediscover the parks, realizing what they have,” said Jim Goulee, executive director of the non-profit Parks People. “We want people to appreciate what they have, and that will encourage protection and advocacy.”
The Oak Leaf Trail, created in the 1970s, covers roughly 115 miles with various extensions throughout the county. Biking to all 14 locations will require more than 80 miles of riding, a long single-day outing, or a series of short ventures through the summer.
My excursion from South Shore Park in Bay View to Currie Park on the city’s northwest side fulfilled another of the program’s goals: to encourage people to explore areas of the Oak Leaf Trail beyond their normal routes.
I bike and run almost daily on the path from South Shore to Grant Park, but seldom venture west or north to the Root River and Underwood Creek Parkways.
Exploring the wetlands and verdant lots tucked in the urban environment was as rewarding as plopping the stamper on each page of my passport.
And I learned.
Each page of the passport shares information about the park, its history and attractions.
The hiking trail in Grant Park was developed in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project. Hansen Park is named for George Hansen, an architect who designed golf courses at Grant, Greenfield, Currie, Brown Deer and Whitnall. The clubhouse at Whitnall was another effort that put craftsmen and artists to work during the Great Depression.
“I believe our trails and parks can be a tourist destination,” said Cheri Briscoe, a part of the Parks People team that brought the passport program to fruition.
So far, about 2,000 passports have been sold, at $3 each or five for $10. They can be found at local bike shops and parks locations.
There were two disappointments from my outing.
I came up short on my initial goal of collecting all of the stamps in one day, which would have matched Jaime Ogas, from Milwaukee, who covered 87 miles and all 14 locations in one day.
At many of the locations, parks workers noted that I was one of only two or three people punching my passport.
Hopefully, more people will join in the biking and stamping fun. I’ll be back out there soon, gleefully gathering the six stamps left in my book.
Check out my day on the trail in the pictures below.