Studying recreation and trail potential in Spring Grove City, students work with UW-L class on feasibility study

By : 
Jordan Gerard

Last week the public was able to give their input on future recreation and trails in Spring Grove, as part of an effort of a feasibility study.

Two public input sessions were held Tuesday and Thursday evening at the library, while students in grades 8, 9 and 12 got to voice their opinion on Tuesday morning. An online survey was also available.

The feasibility study is a result of a partnership between the city, Economic Development Authority (EDA) and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s recreational management degree program.

Professor and department chair Laurie Harmon said they encouraged the public to put forth their ideas.

“Public feedback is the most important part of this process,” she explained. “Our students get to talk to real community members and then translate it to professional work.”

About 20 students in her class split into three groups, each coming to Spring Grove and touring the parks, swim center and Norwegian Ridge Birding and Nature Trail.

A grad student used geographic information system (GIS) technology to accurately map the existing nature, horse and snowmobile trails. 

Once students compile the information, they will present four proposals for the way things could look.

Two of the proposals will focus on a fat tire bike trail, and the other two will focus on multiuse trails.

Participants at the input sessions placed stickers and yarn on the map where they would like to see new trailheads and trails develop.

Many would like to see a multiuse trail that circumnavigates the city and potentially connects to Mabel and/or Caledonia.

Mayor Sarah Schroeder said she would like to see trails that connect the parks together.

“It always seems like you have to go back to Main Street to get to the other place,” she said. “We need more signage to our parks and trails.”

In addition to trails already used for nature walks, snowmobiling and horseback riding, people would like to see more options for cross country skiing, Nordic skiing and mountain biking.

The length of the trail depends on the usage. For a mountain bike or fat tire trail, participants said they would want about 10 to 15 miles. 

To circumnavigate the town, it would take about three to five miles, depending on the route.

As for the usages of the trail, people said they walk around town quite often. They walk on the bird trail when the weather is good.

Schroeder said she sees many kids out riding bicycles in town. The usage of the horse trail was less known, but riders are seen occasionally.

Improvements to be made might include general maintenance and upkeep, signage, more bike friendly and connecting the bird trail to the parks.

Schroeder mentioned some cities used existing gravel roads as a bike trail, provided there’s enough signage to guide people in the right direction.

One of the college students said his hometown used their snowmobile trails in the summer for biking trails.

Safe Routes to School

The city of Spring Grove is awaiting results of a grant program for Safe Routes to School.

After the feasibility study is done and if the city receives the grant, it will be used to create a safe pedestrian route to school for students.

Once created, that route can also be tied into other trails or pedestrian routes.

Students said they would like to see more trails for walking and physical activity in general.

They said they liked the views and nature the trails provided, but disliked mosquitos and unkempt trails. They would prefer paved trails to grass trails.

Students do use the nature trail for science classes and to hang out with friends occasionally.

Connecting cities

Newburg Township is currently working on a pollinator trail with four way stations for monarch butterflies. 

The trail goes through four different properties, each planted with wildflowers. The properties are managed in order to keep weeds out.

The group was able to work with the University of Kansas on the project.

They would like to see the trail connected to Mabel and future trails potentially connecting to Spring Grove.

The city began the trail discussion with former City Administrator Anne Selness. She also helped connect Harmon’s UW-L class and the city for the feasibility study.

Stay tuned to the Herald for more information about the future of trails in Spring Grove.