Trestle Trails More Connected Than Ever
Proudly boasting over 340 miles of trails and bicycle-friendly routes, the Fox Valley region is a bicyclist’s dream. From urban rides and city escapes to rail trails and singletrack, there is something for every bicyclist. With an eye to connectivity and natural and historic features, the routes and trails wind through downtowns, along scenic waterfronts, loop around and over lakes, through wooded areas and even to the Fox Cities Stadium for family-friendly baseball games.
This connectivity is the result of shared vision, dedication and efforts by local communities and organizations. These bicycle and pedestrian connections appeal to those looking for new recreational opportunities as well as routes to commute to their destinations. They also immerse users in some of the natural beauty and history of northeast Wisconsin’s Fox Valley region.
LOOP THE LITTLE LAKE
What started as a connection between two communities via a rail trestle crossing Little Lake Butte des Morts established in 2005, recently evolved into a 3.5-mile loop that connects the cities of Neenah, Menasha and the Village of Fox Crossing. The project required considerable coordination among the municipalities and community partners. The municipalities coordinated their funding efforts with nonprofit organizations, such as Fox Cities Greenways and Future Neenah.
Now complete, Loop the Little Lake takes visitors and residents over four trestles to view Little Lake Butte des Morts, historic paper mills, native shorelines, parks, the Menasha Locks and the Miron Lift Bridge.
This loop has become a local treasure. And those who frequent it can win prizes, thanks to Future Neenah. For the past two summers, Future Neenah and local sponsors have promoted Log Your Loops, a program recognizing anyone who walks, bikes or otherwise completes 25 loops or more or 50 loops or more between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In 2019, 102 individuals completed 50 loops, and in 2020 the number of riders to do it more than doubled to 230. Future Neenah is planning for the program to take place again from May 31 to Sept. 6, 2021.
LOOP THE LOCKS
The neighboring communities of Little Chute, Appleton, Kaukauna and Kimberly partnered to receive a grant from Outagamie County and the Fox River Greenway Fund to complete a regionally connecting network dubbed Loop the Locks. Upon completion, this network will span 15 miles through the Heart of the Valley Region and feature views of the Fox River in each community, the Konkapot Creek in Kaukauna, river locks and dams in Little Chute and Kimberly, and trestle bridges in Kaukauna, Little Chute and Appleton. Many segments are substantially complete at this time, with construction ongoing. The 1,100-foot trestle crossing the Fox River from Kaukauna to Little Chute is scheduled for completion this summer. While Outagamie County was the impetus behind this vision to fill in existing gaps in the trail network, local nonprofits, community organizations and other funding organizations stepped in to help make the loop a reality.
THE NETWORK EXPERIENCE
These current and future efforts complement existing trail and on-road systems. The WIOUWASH State Trail and the Friendship State Trail can quickly transport an urban bicyclist to prairies, farmland and woodlands that comprise the urban fringe of the Fox Valley region. The Tribal Heritage Crossing Trail, along with trails adjacent to county highways CE and CB, allow for recreational and transportation opportunities.
Looking to add some thrill to your ride? It’s easy enough to take a city ride and stop at any one singletrack along the way. Offering both built and natural features, these trails offer riders the ability to hone their mountain bike skills close to home.
Looking to fuel up during a ride or wind down after a ride? Hit up on of the many eateries you can find on your route. Many are Bicycle Benefits businesses, so bring your helmet in with your Bicycle Benefits sticker affixed to it and get a discount or special treat just because you rode a bike.
As stated above, improving the rideability of the Fox Valley has involved businesses, nonprofits, donors and grantors, partner organizations and individual riders. Without these key players many of these projects would face significant challenges and barriers. Both the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley serve as champions for our trails, including the Loop the Little Lake and Loop the Locks projects. Fox Cities Greenways, Inc. is a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving and maintaining the trails in the region through cleanups, grants programs and leveraging funding to expand and create new bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.
Kim Biedermann is bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.