The Sugar River Trail, contrary to ATV clubs’ claims, gets significant biking and hiking use. What politician would vote for ATV access, putting the safety of children and others at risk, along with introducing rutting, noise, and engine fumes to these otherwise pristine, revenue-generating trails? Photo by Kassandra Huffman.
Two more Wisconsin State bike trails have been garnering attention from ATV enthusiasts. The Sugar River and Badger State Trails became the latest in a statewide salvo in which ATVers target swapping use from biking to ATVs. Both trails are included in the Southwest Savanna Region Landscape Plan process which is unfolding now. The plan spurred ATV clubs to muscle into the discussion. The Green County ATV club submitted a petition to add ATV use on the trails during the public input session in spring of 2019, according to DNR Planner Phil Rynish. “We receive a variety of input,” he said. “It’s part of our planning consideration.”
In an apparent coordinated effort by ATV activists to gain access to state trails, the Stower Seven Lakes and Gandy Dancer trails in Northwest Wisconsin face similar threats. ATV clubs reported getting assistance from the Wisconsin ATV Association (WATVA) for expanding access to a variety of roadways. WATVA did not respond to interview requests for this article.
Huffman cites DNR data showing these trails’ considerable use, including 80,000 bikers in 2018. This disproves the ATV clubs’ argument that the trail is underused. “When the Broadhead City Council voted to support ATVs on the trail,” Huffman told Silent Sports, “there were only ATVers attending the meeting. Cyclists weren’t aware of the resolution. People have responded very positively to the petition and are concerned about safety and wildlife.” Huffman’s husband is an alderman on the city council and voted against the resolution.
To those politicians thinking about supporting ATV Club efforts to invade Silent Sports Trails, need proof of rutting? Here you go, from just one ATV on one day on the Gandy Dancer ST. Care to have your own kids cycle on that, plus the damage by hundreds of ATVs if proposed ATV trail use is allowed? Photo by Dan Campion.
As previously reported in Silent Sports, Wisconsin has an oddball state trail management scheme compared to those of other Midwest states. Most don’t allow changing trail usage based on local politics and county board make-up. Some counties claim Wisconsin Statute NR 44 allows them to change trail use and that the DNR only oversees the process. These trails have become political footballs between county boards and DNR management. Changes in NR 44 could give the DNR additional trail management authority more in line with that in other Midwest states.
Full disclosure: As Policy Director for The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, yours truly has been meeting with legislators to gage interest in changing NR 44 to help protect State Bike Trail use. [Editor’s Note: Thank you, Mike!]
A swallow darts above the Sugar River. Do we really need to know what we’ve got only when it’s gone? Will too many politicians decide far-reaching noise, engine fumes, and trail damage are helpful to wildlife life cycles, or decide that the vast numbers of Silent Sports users of these trails, bringing money into the economy, come to these trails for the noise and fumes and ruts? Please let your voice be heard over that of the ATV clubs’. Photo by Kassandra Huffman.
The Sugar River travels 24 miles from New Glarus to Brodhead. The trail contains fourteen trestle bridges which cross the Sugar River and its tributaries. The trail has also been designated a National Recreational Trail. The Badger travels 40 miles between Madison and the Wisconsin-Illinois border, including the 1,200-foot long Stewart Tunnel. The Badger continues into Madison, making numerous connections. At the Illinois border, the Badger connects to the Jane Addams Trail, which continues to Freeport, Illinois. Both make numerous trail connections traveling through small towns, glacial topography, woods, rolling hills, scenic meadows, and remnant prairies.
According to the DNR website, the Landscape Plan covers all of Lafayette County, and portions of Grant, Green, Iowa, and Dane counties. It contains a variety of ecological resources, including the Grant, Rattlesnake, Little Platte, and Pecatonica Rivers; Blue Mound, Hardscrabble Prairie, Yellowstone Lake, New Glarus Woods, and Belmont Mound state properties. The planning team will evaluate input and incorporate it into its consideration of recreation on these properties. The DNR is slated to involve the public at key points during the process. The draft master plan should be completed in late 2020, with the final plan completed in 2021. Information on the plan is available at https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/lands/propertyplanning/SouthwestSavanna/
Do you live or recreate in this area? Get involved by contacting DNR Planner [email protected]