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Stump Dodger Trail progress update
The path to building the Stump Dodger Trail in Gays Mills has been filled with plenty of twists and turns and that pattern seemed to continue during a trail committee meeting on Tuesday, July 12.

The path to building the Stump Dodger Trail in Gays Mills has been filled with plenty of twists and turns and that pattern seemed to continue during a trail committee meeting on Tuesday, July 12.

The location of the trail has undergone repeated revisions over the course of the last year. It is currently planned as two unconnected segments.

The south leg of the trail will run from Robb Park near the dam to the Kickapoo Bottoms, a Mississippi Valley Conservancy Nature Reserve just south of the fairgrounds. It will also have a loop component using village streets for a return trip. 

The north leg of the trail is largely being built by local business owner Ritchie Stevenson, according to information provided at the trail committee meeting and previous meetings.

Part of the trail’s north leg will be built on some land near Stevenson’s BAPI facility in the business park within the village limits. Then, a larger length of the trail will be constructed on land north of the village limits in the Town Clayton. Stevenson is the owner of much of the land on which the trail is being built, according to statements made at the trail committee meeting.

Construction of the trail is being done by Stevenson and others. BAPI's segment will be a one-mile loop, the committee was told.

Earlier this summer, the public learned that an agreement had been rescinded between Crawford County and the Stump Dodger Trail Committee. The agreement that was cancelled by the county, according trail committee members, would’ve allowed the trail to run through the fairgrounds behind the horse coral.

The county’s fair committee wants to have some of the land near the coral to  construct a building to house horses, committee members were told. The property originally designated for the trail might be needed in some way to facilitate the building.

Meanwhile, the trail committee was able to reach an agreement with the Stump Dodger Campground owner, Jim Showen, to use a terraced path already constructed on the campground to connect with the Kickapoo Bottoms.

This portion of the trail would be closed during the Stump Dodger Bash, a two-day country music event, which turns the entire campground into a music venue with an admission charge at the gate. Other closed events with admission charges at the campground might also lead to closing this segment. However, there have been few such events scheduled at the campground.

Using this terraced trail through the campground led to some other changes in the trail’s route to connect to it. Most notably, the trail will no longer use a segment of Railroad Street south of School Street that goes to the pool  and the campground, instead the trail which runs through Lions Park and other village property will cross a small creek just south of the Gene McManamy Boat Landing on the Kickapoo River.

This small bridge will be constructed of water-resistant wood or treated lumber and have sides on it, according to the discussion at the meeting. It will be designed and built by Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz and Jim Showen.

In answer to a question, Heisz said the bridge in its flood-prone position near the Kickapoo River would be anchored by a cable to prevent it from washing away during a flood. Several of the five Stump Dodger Trail Committee members present for the meeting approved of the proposed trail changes and amended the Showen bid to accommodate the new trail route.

The committee wrestled with the fact that the portion of the trail to be surfaced in the south leg segment had increased with the new route to 2,300 feet from the original 1,900-foot bid on by Showen to excavate and provide the gravel.

After some discussion, the committee approved an amended bid to the longer length at the same rate per foot of the 1,900-foot bid.

Showen, the only bidder on constructing the south leg of the trail, was on hand for the start of the committee meeting to confirm the trail’s exact location and answer any questions the committee had.

Heisz told the committee that the changes would “make the trail better.”

Rachel Jovi, who now serves as a co-chairperson of the committee with Brad Niemcek, asked if the gravel trail would be in place for Apple Fest.

Showen indicated it was probable the trail would be in place by Apple Fest he explained the gravel would be allowed to settle and in the future would serve as the base for blacktop.

Committee member Sharon Murphy asked if biking on the trail would be a pleasant experience in late September. Heisz said biking on the trail immediately this fall would probably not be advised “unless you know what you’re doing” on a bike. The gravel will be approximately three quarters of an inch in diameter.

Showen suggested it might be possible to lose some distance of the gravel trail by going behind a bathroom building in Lions Park along Orin Street.

However, after touring the area with Showen, trail committee member Mark Drake favored continuing to have the trail run in front the bathroom building. The committee agreed to leave that portion of the trail in place as planned.

Following the presentation, Jim Showen left confident he knew where the trail was located and could proceed with the work of excavating it and putting in the gravel.

To create a loop in the south leg of the trail, the route takes off from the Robb Park area by following an unconstructed alleyway through the old school property and on down to Gay Street where the “trail” turns left on Gay Street where it goes for a half block before turning right on Grove Street, according to Heisz. There are sidewalks on both sides of those streets.

This changes when the “trail” hits Railroad Street. Here, the trail turns right onto the street, which runs past a village-owned parking lot and later past vacant lots. The “trail” crosses Main Street proceeding on Railroad Street between the old post-office building currently owned by baker Albert Zegiel, and the former electric utility building, currently owned by the Showen Company. It proceeds on Railroad Street between the two buildings without sidewalks to an alley crossing.

Eventually, the “trail loop” crosses Orin Street where a sidewalk reappears on Railroad Street. As it passes School Street, the sidewalk disappears and the street heads uphill to the pool parking lot and the Stump Dodger Campground.

One reason for sending the trail down Railroad Street was its proximity to businesses on Main Street and its central location, according to Heisz.

When Heisz left, he thanked the committee for the work they were doing.

The co-chairperson of the trail committee, Rachel Jovi, responded with her gratitude for the village president’s efforts on the project.

“Thank you for what you’re doing,” Jovi said to Heisz, as he left.

In other business, the Stump Dodger Trail Committee:

• inspected a  logo created by artist Alvin Felch for the trail

• heard the logo could be combined with existing copy to create a brochure about the trail

• discussed briefly the need for signage along the trail and the type of signs that could be used

• noted that there were no new donations to add to the $10,000, which was largely collected from a few anonymous donors

• learned all donors wish to remain anonymous