The first steps toward a new non-motorized recreational trail in Rhinelander have been taken.
The City Council approved a feasibility study analyzing different route options and price estimates at their monthly meeting Dec. 8.
The study was approved to spend no more than $14,000. It will be performed by MSA Professional Services, a consulting firm that has worked on numerous trail projects like this.
MSA project manager Jim Bollmann presented to both the Parks, Buildings and Grounds Committee and the City Council. He said they will have the results of the study next spring, in time to apply for a Wisconsin DNR grant that has a May deadline.
The DNR grant could end up aiding $200,000 toward the trail. This grant is one of the reasons a feasibility study is necessary.
“Looking at it, there’s some advantage this calendar year because one of the two funding programs, which is an annual funding program, actually has more dollars available,” Bollmann said. “So that’s the reason we’re looking, or I should say the city is looking at doing this.”
The trail, as it stands now, would start near Davenport Street, and meet up with a short segment of trail crossing the river that the city completed during the sewer interceptor project in 2012. From Davenport, the new trail will follow the Wisconsin River south, until crossing the West Kemp Street bridge area.
After travelling “from Davenport on the west side all the way down to the Chamber, across the bridge by the Chamber,” said Blaine Oborn, city administrator, the trail will basically follow the Pelican River east into Pioneer Park.
“There are multiple routes,” Oborn said at the City Council meeting. “I mean, we can go on the streets sometimes… there’s a variety of ways to deal with it… the city will look at it in components and look at best routes and look at alternatives in a variety of areas.”
The trail system is very preliminary at this point, but many officials are making a strong push, not only on this trail, but trails throughout the city.
“I think this is really needed in a lot of areas,” Oborn said. “I think we’re behind in a lot of areas on having trails available.”
City alderman Alex Young is one of the catalysts and major proponent of the trail systems, and has been in the planning stages practically from the beginning.
“There were a couple of things that led to this, that we’ve sort of always talked about,” Young said. “The idea of linking the parks together with trails… Basically this trail circles most of downtown—it has the possibility to tie into many of the trails being talked about. It’s all ongoing, mostly in the planning stages at this point.”
Some of the other trail ideas Young mentioned have been thrown around are trails out to Nicolet and out onto Highway 8. Though preliminary, Young and others believe recreational trails are a huge step in growing the city and making it more appealing.
“The city hasn’t really done much in terms of recreational trails,” Young said. “[Trails are] a great step in making the city more welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrians—a great way to take advantage of the natural assets we have here with the Wisconsin and Pelican Rivers.”
“Many studies have been done before,” said Joel Knutson, town supervisor of Crescent and advocate of the trail system. “Commmunities are automatically more welcoming when you drive in and the first thing you see is that trail.”
The city has already begun working toward the goal of incorporating a trail system, including a segment in near downtown, from the Davenport Street bridge down into the parking area of Trig’s.
They’ve also done some work near Shepard’s Park, where they acquired property as part of a boat landing project in the Pelican River. The new trail would potentially tie into the work they have completed already.
“One thing the city is doing right now is revising it’s recreational development plan. There’s a public survey online now,” Young said. “The city has historically looked at the riverfront as industrial,” now it’s time to look at it from a recreational standpoint.