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Wisconsin River Trail lands $200,000 grant

“Tomorrow is my birthday and this is the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten. All my prayers were answered.”

So said Denise Fisher Friday after learning that the Wisconsin River Trail Organization (WRTO) had received a $200,000 Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“Our Phase One trail to the Boscobel Boat Landing is now a solid reality, with final plans and permits going strong,” Fisher said. “DOT and DNR permits will take between 30 and 60 days, with construction to follow as soon as we are cleared with the permits. If we hadn’t attained this grant we wouldn’t be able to go forward.”

Once state permits are secured construction is scheduled to begin in the spring and be completed about a year from now. The trail will extend from the end of the Sanders Creek trail north to the boat landing along the western side of Highway 61.

“I know there was some stiff competition (for the grant), but thanks to our selfless and dedicated volunteers we were able to get it done,” Fisher said.

The trail organization was assisted in the grant application process by Cheryl Housley, DNR Natural Resources Financial Assistance Specialist, who said the competition was indeed stiff. She said there were 99 applications seeking $18.6 million statewide, but only $6 million available. That money was shared among 37 successful projects.

“There were a lot of good projects out there, a lot of trails, which are becoming increasingly popular,” Housely said.

Housely said projects are judged on a variety of factors, including economic viability, quality of life, and community support. There is also a lengthy application featuring 50 in-depth questions.

“That helps us give points as far as meeting the needs of the community and other factors,” she said.

The Acquisition and Development Grant is a 50 percent cost share reimbursement-based grant. As work is completed the cost is reimbursed by the DNR. The WRTO has about $60,000 on hand and is raising more through events like last weekend’s Taste of Boscobel and the upcoming Hiking and Biking Banquet, scheduled for Nov. 14 at Boscobel Bowl & Banquet. The city of Boscobel will also be involved in the project, doing in-kind construction work that is eligible for reimbursement.

The project is costlier than might be anticipated due to highway crossing safety measures, such as more curbing and flashing lights at the crossing next to Sanders Creek. The speed limit will not be decreased, according to the WisDOT.

“Safety is our number one priority,” Fisher said. “Every safety measure we can do we will do. We need to create a safe crossing there.”

Fisher said Boscobel has needed a safe link between the city and the Wisconsin River for a long time, and that link will soon become a reality.

“Safety is really important to me and it’s really important to connect our town with the river,” she said. “It’s the beginning of an important economic development strategy as well considering our new community branding effort.”

Fisher encourages more people to become involved in community volunteerism to make Boscobel stronger.

“This is the beginning of a great thing, but we need more help and volunteers,” she said. “I love our community and up to now have never really volunteered in my life. I would like to challenge each of you to step out and help in whatever makes you passionate. This goes to show you that by having a dream and following it, we now have the beginning of a trail. I encourage everyone to please consider helping the WRTO leave a legacy for all of our grandchildren.”