Following the conclusion of last Saturday night’s benefit at Boscobel Bowl and Banquet, the Wisconsin River Trail Project is poised to take off in 2015.
“We had an absolutely wonderful turnout for our first annual Hiking and Biking Unlimited Banquet and I know there was fun that was had by all,” said organizer Denise Fisher. “I’m hoping to be digging ground by next summer.”
Fisher’s first priority is extending the Sanders Creek Trail to the Wisconsin River boat landing in 2015. Stage Two of the project is completing a biking/hiking/cross country ski trail from Woodman to Boscobel. That could take up to three years.
Fisher has been working with students from UW-Madison and UW-Platteville to design the trail and will be spending the winter at her home in Los Angeles working on grant applications.
“Funds from the benefit will be used for match grant funding. Right now we could possibly match a $100,000 grant,” Fisher said. “We currently have four possibilities for various trails with wooden bridges. At least it gives us a starting point. My hope really is to eventually connect to Prairie du Chien.”
Fisher said a cost analysis from the UW-Platteville students will be presented Dec. 4. Grant applications are due by April 15 and she is hopeful some large companies like Cabela’s will sign on.
“They were very enthusiastic when we brought the idea to them, so we’re hopeful they will get on board,” she said.
Fundraising for the trail began with a chicken BBQ in Kronshage Park on July 3, which had over 500 people in attendance. Prior to Saturday’s benefit, Fisher and her fellow volunteers had received about $10,000 in pledges and donations and she was hoping for an additional $15,000 from the banquet. Final numbers from the benefit should be known by the end of the week.
The work by students in the UW-Platteville Engineering Department and UW-Madison Landscape Architecture Department is an “in-kind” labor donation.
“While we don’t pay them, they have been keeping track of their hours to match the grants that we will be applying for next April,” Fisher said. “The UW-P students also hire an engineering firm to confirm their results at the end of their semester. With all of this in mind, I estimate that their assistance not only gives us our trail design and costs for the route, including the design of our bridges, but their work alone gives us approximately another $100,000 to match the funding for our grants. These nine students have done an amazing job at presenting bridging systems and different trail alternatives in a way that makes everything so understandable. We stay in touch weekly and our city staff has been wonderful with assisting the students with any help that they may need.”
Once the Sander Creek Trail is extended to the boat landing—providing safer pedestrian and bicycle travel to the river—the project will proceed to the seven-mile Boscobel to Woodman phase.
“The good thing about this stretch is that we may qualify for some Department of Transportation grants because we have a trailer court about four miles out of town,” Fisher said. “This alternative route would give people who don’t drive or can’t drive another safe route into town.”
The third phase is considered the toughest phase. This phase will cross the Wisconsin River where there are no roads, from Woodman into Wauzeka. This will require four to seven bridges. Most are not large bridges because the water doesn’t flow there like it used to. This phase will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible as much as possible because beautiful scenery like this should be accessible to everyone.
“We hope to also include fishing docks,” said Fisher. “In this phase, there is an old turn-style from when there used to be barges passing through. My thought on this is that we can apply for historical site grants as well.”
The fourth phase would return the trail back to Boscobel following the north side of the river and Highway 60, which is beautiful in and of itself. This loop is approximately 20 miles in length.
“The trail is going to proceed in phases 1-4, unless we run into any issues and decide to take things out of order,” noted Fisher. “The people in Boscobel have been the steering committee on this project, so we would plan on starting it and connecting more with the Woodman/Wauzeka townspeople and supporters as we go along. It would be amazing if we could have another group of citizens who wanted to work on the Wauzeka end. My whole thought is that one day our trails will take people right into Prairie du Chien. The beauty here in the Driftless Region is truly one of a kind. Why not share it with others?”
Fisher estimated the time frame for the whole project will be about 10 years. “I know it sounds like a long time, but 10 years is nothing when you consider that the trail will be used for many, many years to come,” she said. “What better legacy to leave our children and grandchildren?”
Fisher said there is no estimate on the cost of the entire project yet. The UW-P and UW-Madison students can continue to choose the next two phases and finish the planning stages for the trail as the project proceeds.
As the project continues, it is gathering steam and garnering interest. “We have started to get some interest outside of our immediate area,” said Fisher. “I think what we have here is amazing, our people. The support has been so wonderful that it makes me proud to be from a small, rural community. I can’t begin to envision what this will do, not only for our tourism industry, as we have the Wisconsin River Outing canoe/kayak business already, as well as a huge hiking trail of 389 acres called the Boscobel Bluffs, but for our local people, creating a place to go to exercise, think, and just clear their minds. My satisfaction for starting this whole thought on the trail will be reached one day when I am riding on our trail with my grandchild. And that is all the reason I need to do something positive for all of us.”