Written in collaboration by:
Stephen Siodlarz, Senior Landscape Architect, Department of Parks and Land Use Parks Division, Waukesha County
Willie Karidis, Project Manager, Route of the Badger, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
“It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.”
“I thought of that while riding my bicycle.”
It’s true. Short of skilled magicians of balance, to ride is to move and as with life, we do our best to move forward tackling all the obstacles that each breath presents to us. Building trails is an exercise in how to find the perfect balance tackling the questions that inevitably develop when considering adding this particular piece of public infrastructure. Who owns the land? Can we get an easement? How many people will use it? What is the impact to the environment? What’s the economic potential? How safe will it be? Who is going to pay for it, maintain it, hold liability for it? The lesson, take your time, keep moving forward, answer the questions, never stop, find the balance.
The Route of the Badger trail network is all about finding balance. Being deliberate about time, doing the research to find the answers to the plethora of inevitable questions and of course moving forward, never stopping. As each planned trail project presents its own unique set of challenges, the themes are common and through it all, at the heart of each project is a group of committed individuals, the champions, whose efforts create an amenity for generations to come.
The Fox River Trail in Waukesha is a proposed multi-jurisdictional 37-mile trail that would follow the Fox River from the northern border of Waukesha County to the southern border of the County. In 2018 Waukesha County received funding from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program and from the Wisconsin DNR’s Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program to help fund the 2.91-mile Fox River Trail addition. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund was created in 1989 to preserve important natural communities, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation. These grant sources covered 80% of the cost of the new trail. Waukesha County purchased the corridor in 2000 and began the budgeting process for the project in the early 2010’s. So, it has taken the better part of a decade to make this segment a reality. Talk about perseverance.
The Fox River Trail addition unofficially opened on October 20, 2022, once construction was completed. Waukesha County is planning a ribbon cutting ceremony for June 3, 2023, to officially kick it off. Stay tuned for more information as that day gets closer.
Since the new Fox River Trail has opened the turnout for the trail has been fantastic. Waukesha County planners could tell that people were excited to use it even before the construction was complete. The users they’ve spoken to on the trail have given very positive feedback on the scenery along the trail and how nice it is to bike, run or walk without having to be on the roads. The southern trailhead is located on the south side of Watertown Road, between Springdale Road and North Avenue, in the City of Pewaukee. The northern trailhead, currently under construction, is located at Brookfield Road and North Hills Road, just south of the Village, in the City of Brookfield. This facility is a collaboration between the City of Brookfield and a developer to move and renovate the historic train depot to house a Coffeeville Café, which is scheduled to open in late Spring.
The Route of the Badger has helped to spur conversation among communities in Southeast WI on prioritizing trail segments and how to best complete the gaps between the existing infrastructure.
Currently, Waukesha County does not have a timeframe for the connection of the City owned portion of the Fox River Trail to the addition. But with the new addition now built and being used, hopefully the public will encourage the necessary resources to make this happen.
Trails take time. Keep moving forward, answer the questions, never stop, find the balance.