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Community Corner: The trails social benefits
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Earller this month the City of Platteville was awarded more than $630,000 by the Department of Natural Resources to improve our very own Rountree Branch Trail.

With matching funds being raised within the community, Platteville now has a $1.2 million opportunity to pave, light, and complete the Rountree Branch Trail.

The magnitude of potential impacts brought about by this exciting opportunity cannot be overstated. Evidence consistently reveals that when communities invest in trails and green space they are better able to attract and retain those who tend to energize communities, create new businesses, appreciate natural resources, and support the local economy.

The simple word “trail” evokes a plethora of images — a serene path through hushed woodlands, a quiet stroll along a favorite body of water, a rigorous hike to a desired summit, a personal shortcut to a best friend’s house … the list could go on and on.

Despite their differences, such images are unified by the underlying notion that trails connect us to something, be it a person or place.

Within the Platteville community, the Rountree Branch Trail connects us to each other by providing opportunities for recreation, exercise, social interactions, commerce, and transportation. Additionally the Rountree Branch Trail connects us to a Class II trout stream (that runs right through our city), woodlands, remnant oak savanna, prairie, and other habitats that all contain and support fish or wildlife.

Recreational trails like the Rountree Branch Trail effectively connect community members because they are for everyone. These trails make no distinction amongst their users, be it age, fitness level, income, gender, race or creed. They are for everyone. Weather permitting, they are always open.

The proposed paving and lighting improvements to the Rountree Branch Trail will make the trail even more usable to the spectrum of abilities while also increasing access to existing and future universal-access fishing piers.

Many of us live in Platteville because the size and opportunities suit our “small-town” natures. Research shows that many people long to live in a community where people know and care about each other. We like to be in a place where we can easily connect to our community and feel part of something. Trails like the Rountree Branch Trail facilitate this connection and help communities develop a sense of place and civic pride.

They also provide an opportunity for families and friends to spend time together. For example, Platteville resident Kerri Sue Stange recently shared, “I have three young boys, 11, 8, and 5, and we take advantage of the beautiful trail frequently throughout the year. So, I thank you for your dedication to such a meaningful project that has peaked an interest for continued activity with my family.”

Additionally, surveys on happiness and life satisfaction suggest the factor most strongly correlated with satisfaction is regular contact with a network of friends.

Despite all this, today’s high-tech, fast-paced world often seems to counter our connections to the community and our environment by drawing us inside and encouraging more virtual interactions.

Fortunately, trails like the proposed Rountree Branch Trail can inspire people to get out and enjoy the outdoors and also build an appreciation for the natural beauty and ecological diversity of the area. They connect people to the land and provide a hands-on environmental classroom for people of all ages.

Trails and their associated green space provide a variety of environmental benefits. Urban trail corridors are important to wildlife as they provide habitat and connections between green spaces. Trail corridors can help filter pollution from runoff and provide natural buffers for our rivers and streams.

Across the nation people are realizing the benefits from having trails close to home. Here in Platteville, the enhanced Rountree Branch Trail is poised to become a gateway to our community, enriching the quality of life and influencing the economy, health, and environmental quality of the area.

We’ll see you on the trail.

The Community Corner is a column of opinion written by guest columnists UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza; Platteville Regional Chamber Executive Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.