- Sue Leamy Kies
Brooke Brockman’s “Happy Place”
Brooke Brockman’s love of the trail took her by surprise. Before taking her first bike ride there, she hadn’t paid much attention to the trail and its progress.
Born and raised in Platteville, Brooke teaches First Grade students at Westview Elementary and now spends any spare moments she can in her “happy place”---on her bike, on the trail.
In August of 2016 when the trail was almost complete, Brooke climbed onto a bicycle for the first time in many years. As a kid, she and her friends biked all around Platteville. But that had been a long time ago.
“Part of the trail was still gravel,” she says, “and I thought I was going to die. Going toward Wal-Mart, I said to myself, “Is it ever going to end?”
That was six years and three bikes ago. She says when she first began biking, she “foolishly believed that a bike was a bike.” Now her original bike is hanging in her garage. She credits Tim and Corey at Momentum Bikes for their guidance and support in all things bicycle related.
Brooke enjoys all parts of the trail, depending on her mood and the season. In summer, she says, “It’s nice not to have so many layers on.” She would like it if the trail could be plowed down to a smooth snowpack in winter for easier biking. “Maybe I should put a plow on the front of my bike,” she jokes.
One day while biking she experienced the “wildest, most amazing kind of thing.” Loud squawking and screeching drew her attention, and when she located the origin of the sound, “There were two bald eagles talking to each other. It was crazy to hear!”
Another time while biking to the University, Brooke caught sight of a startlingly beautiful blue bird behind Country Kitchen. On her way back, she shared her sighting with a couple sitting on a bench. Avid bird watchers, they told her that the bird was an Indigo Bunting. They had seen it, too.
Brooke’s birding friends, Larry and Sylvia Kurowski, saw a kingbird past the gazebo. And, once a Great Blue Heron made such a racket taking off from its fishing spot, it startled Brooke. “It sounded like a 747 coming out of the woods,” she says.
Sharing her love of the trail, Brooke has taken her first graders on a walk there most every fall and spring since 2016, the year of the trail’s grand opening. She uses this chance to teach students “about communities and how people worked together to create the trail.”
Students learn about the many volunteers who donate their time to keep the trail looking good, as well as the rules to follow while using the trail. The kiosks provide historical information about this area, and the trail art provides a creative look at nature. Brooke says trail volunteer Dan Flesch often joins them to point out the various native plants and vegetation along the way. To make it even more fun, students participate in a scavenger hunt.
Last spring Brooke purchased a piece of metal wall art in the form of a collage of bicycles for her home. She surrounded it with a grouping of her favorite photos taken on the trail.
“I may add to the collection or change them out depending on the season,” she says. “We’ll see where it goes.” This way, if inclement weather, teaching duties or whatever prevent her from biking the trail, she can still enjoy her “happy place.”