Wisconsin River Trail making good progress

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Above is a map of the proposed Wisconsin River Trail.


By Ted Pennekamp


The Wisconsin River Trail project has been going since April of 2014 and there is a long way to go, but there has also been much progress.

In time, it is hoped the trail will extend from Boscobel to Wauzeka, and then loop back to Boscobel. It is also hoped that Prairie du Chien might like to connect to the trail as well. 

The multi-use trail is projected to run from Boscobel between Highway 133 and the Wisconsin River to Woodman, along railroad tracks for much of the way. The trail needs to be 51 feet from the tracks. From Woodman, the trail would go across the Wisconsin River to Wauzeka. From Wauzeka, the trail would go between Highway 60 and the Wisconsin River, along the railroad tracks, back to Boscobel.

The trail will be completed in four phases, said Denise Fisher of the Wisconsin River Trail Organization (WTRO). Phase 1 is from the Von Haden Boat Landing near Boscobel to the Sand’s Motel. Phase 2 is from Boscobel to Woodman.  Phase 3 is from Woodman to Wauzeka, and Phase 4 is from Wauzeka to Boscobel. The existing Sanders Creek Trail in Boscobel also connects to the Wisconsin River Trail.

Now that the project is in Phase 2, people from Wauzeka, Woodman and Prairie du Chien are becoming more involved than in the past.

Several businesses from Prairie du Chien donated this year, said Fisher, who noted that the businesses would like to remain anonymous for now. Donations have come from Wauzeka and Woodman as well.

“Whether a business or person donates a little or a lot, we are just thankful,” said Fisher. “They’ve donated what they think they should, and we are just grateful.”

In addition, Wauzeka Village President Gary Gundlach has lent his support.

“The village president has assisted us in the past with our grants, by writing a letter of support for the Wisconsin River Trail,” said Fisher. “Within the past week, word came from the Department of Transportation of a plan to resurface Highway 60 from Bridgeport to the Highway 131 intersection, which is the county road on the east side of Wauzeka, just past the Kickapoo Bridge. Construction isn’t planned until 2023 or 2024, but we are going to try to keep communication open in the hopes that we can have some assistance with creating the trail at least from Wauzeka to the Steuben turn-off. If nothing else, we see this as a heads up and a reason to fund raise strongly, and at the very least, be able to pay for the trail construction with some input and assistance from the Crawford County officials and road crews.”

At their banquet on Nov. 10, the WTRO raised more money than they ever have.  The amount is not final yet, but it was more than $35,000 in one night, said Fisher.

Fisher said it’s hard to determine how much more funds need to be raised. “It depends upon matching grants versus local businesses and individuals offering to help us create the trail,” she said. “The WRTO paid about $60,000 for Phase I and we have a sizable savings. We try to save every penny for trail construction. We have a program where people can make monthly payments as little as $5 or $10, and can purchase a brick for our flagpole monument that we are constructing at the Von Haden Boat Landing. Then it isn’t a financially taxing effort to any family. If everyone donated $10 per month, our trail would just fund itself. That would be pretty amazing, wouldn’t it?”

In addition to donors, Fisher also praised the efforts of the board members and volunteers. “Filling a room with 200 attendees gives us all a huge boost to keep moving forward,” she said. “I have an ambitious co-director, Tonia Vial, who works at TriCor Insurance in Prairie du Chien, as well as a board of seven more wonderful and hard-working board members. We enjoy each other’s company and go from one event to the next with little rest in between.”

None of the board is creating this trail for themselves, said Fisher, because the trail is going to take many years. 

“Alone, none of us will ever leave a big enough inheritance to our children that would make much of a difference, but with some perseverance and community strength, we will leave a trail, a legacy trail, an inheritance trail, that will only be built upon. To us, it is about helping our community, our kids. We are all mentors, whether we realize it or not.  There are kids watching you, and it’s your job to ‘aspire to inspire’ others. We all had local idols in our community who may never have known our names, but who inspired us; parents of our classmates, older co-workers who mentored us in our young careers, community members who seemed to be everywhere with a hand out when it was needed. And, in the end, if we help one child look up and out of a bad situation, or strive to be their best, then our lives are fulfilled.”

Fisher said the trail started with the half-mile that connects the northern edge of Boscobel to the Von Haden Boat Landing and was made possible through the hard work of the Boscobel City Crew, City Engineer Mike Reynolds, and Jeremy Krachey, the project engineer from Wauzeka. 

The WTRO is now fund-raising for Phase 2A to the Cozy Acres Trailer Park. Phase 2B will go from the trailer park to Woodman.

Fisher said the focus is just to keep extending the trail and building out from the western edge of Boscobel, heading toward Highway 133 off of Borden Road, the back road from Milk Specialties.

“We have twice applied for a TAPS grant, which funds 80% of the project that will take us to Cozy Acres Trailer Park, and the monies have been granted to the bigger metropolitan areas, taken away from our region’s portions, and given to Madison and Milwaukee,” said Fisher. “We will continue to apply, and hopefully with new leadership, our voices will be heard. Giving a way to and from the trailer park, 3 1/2 miles out of town, would be an amazing addition to our trail.”

From there, the WTRO would work on creating the trail from the Von Haden Boat Landing to Wauzeka, and then across the Wisconsin River from Woodman to Wauzeka, which is a 4-mile stretch requiring four to seven bridges. The river is not as deep as once believed, and there has been a rumor that the railroad is considering building a new crossing, noted Fisher. “If that happened, we could use the present railroad crossing. It may be a big dream, but it is possible,” she said.

Big dreams and long-range plans, however, is what the trail is all about. “We do realize that patience is a virtue and persistence pays off,” continued Fisher. “We have proposed in previous years, the possibility that the community of Prairie du Chien might build toward Wauzeka, and we could meet our trails at some point.”

For more information, interested persons can contact (507) 209-2606 or www.wirivertrail.org. Denise Fisher can also be contacted at denisefisher5995@gmail.com.

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