Spring Grove sees potential for addition of multiuse trails

Jordan Gerard

With the right plan, funding and drive behind the project, Spring Grove could very well see the addition of multiuse walking and/or bike trails.

The culmination of a trail study from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse was presented to a few members of city staff, Parks and Rec committee and council members on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

Dr. Laurie Harmon from UW-L presented the results of the study completed by her students in the Recreation Management and Therapeutic Recreation program. About 20 students were of junior and senior courses, while two were graduate students and the remaining 18 were undergraduates.

In addition to laying out four potential trail options for Spring Grove, the opportunity also let Harmon’s students “think through the process of developing recreational facilities.”

“It was really fun for them to develop this project,” she said. “It taught them what it means to work with the community, working with public school students. Thank you again for allowing us to do this project.”

Students evaluated several factors into their planning of the trails, including community resources, socio-economic factors, security, safety and physical site characteristics. 

All students had the chance to visit Spring Grove and its existing parks, which provided the opportunity to give the park or trail a “value judgment” that told students if it was an opportunity or not.

Harmon added the project was also lucky enough to secure a graduate student from the geography department to work on GIS mapping the town and existing trails (Norwegian Ridge Birding and Nature Trail, snowmobile trail and horse trail).

Survey results

Two public input sessions and one session with public school students were conducted, and then a survey was sent out to the adults.

About 134 people responded; the average age was about 46 years old, and it took about 17 minutes to complete the survey. Of those 134 people, 67 people from Spring Grove took the survey. 

Harmon said the survey showed that Spring Grove’s parks were highly used and most people visit them with kids or friends or during events. They also visit for relaxation, walking and other physical activities.

People are most likely to walk, hike, bike and go birding in the parks versus using the horse trail (because you need a horse) or a fat-tire bike trail (which can be expensive).

Safety is the first priority of people visiting the parks, followed by the quality of space, cleanliness, convenience and family atmosphere.

What stops people from visiting the parks is not having enough time to spend there, the weather, the facility lacks the right equipment or the park is not well maintained.

Overall, cleanliness, walkability and safety ranked highly for Spring Grove’s parks.

EDA Director Courtney Bergey said it was heartening to hear that people like the recreation in Spring Grove.

Student proposals

It’s important to note that these are currently just proposals or options the city or other committee could explore for trails.

If any of the trails become a major contender or gets support behind it, the appropriate people will be contacted (e.g.: landowners, if the trail goes out of town) and appropriate measures will be taken.

There was also a question of who would own or maintain the trail if it went out of town. 

The most common themes behind each of the ideas included creating a trail that would circumvent the town and connecting existing parks to each other, a trail length of three to five miles long, easy access to trail heads, signage and following the topography of the land.

As for the type of surfacing for potential trails, there are many options in addition to asphalt and pavement. Many of the proposed trails suggested having a type of hard-packed surface that would allow bikes, strollers and wheelchairs or scooters to also use the trail. 

Bike maintenance stations and resting places were also popular options presented with the trails. 

Next steps

With all of this information from the survey, feedback from community members and four options to play with, where does the trail topic go from here?

Volunteers are needed to be on a committee, preferably if they have an interest in the trail discussion. The goal will be to explore which option might be the best for Spring Grove and funding it.

Harmon recommended there be focus groups that could look at each option and evaluate the options. She recommended asking for students’ input.

“Your youth love to be involved,” Harmon said. “Build on that youth buy-in and empowerment. Don’t hesitate to incorporate that.”

Spring Grove City Council approved the study using $3,000 from the contingency fund. The EDA also approved $2,000 from its funds to help with the cost of the study, which was $5,000.

Look for more information about the multiuse trail in upcoming editions of the Herald.