National Trails Day takes place on the first Saturday in June and recognizes all the incredible benefits trails provide for recreation, tourism and the enjoyment of nature. The day encourages people to discover their local trails, become active concerning trail issues, and share their excitement for the outdoors.
It’s National Trails Day!
In recognition of National Trails Day, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes joined Wisconsin Bike Fed Executive Director Kirsten Finn, board members Steve Arnold and Margot Higgins, and Route of the Badger Project Manager Willie Karidis, for a bike ride along the Sugar River Trail. DNR staff were on hand to discuss issues related to trail maintenance.
From the Sugar River Trail, the group headed to the Stewart Tunnel on the Badger State Trail. The Stewart Tunnel is a unique attraction that has drawn sightseers to this spot since 1886. When you are in the tunnel, you cannot see light from the other end until you get around the bend. The tunnel stays a cool 40 degrees at all times, making it a nice break from the beating sun on summer bike rides. Unfortunately, the Tunnel has been closed due to falling rock with no clear timeline for it being repaired and reopened.
In 2018, historic storms and flooding caused nearly $8 million in damage across 32 state properties in 21 counties. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources worked on necessary repairs through 2020 and continues their work for ongoing projects. However, trail closures on some of Wisconsin’s most iconic trails – such as the Nation’s first rail trail the Elroy-Sparta – continue to negatively impact local businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, that rely on tourism generated by the trail.
The bipartisan Wisconsin Legislative Trails Caucus, championed by co-chairs Republican State Rep. Tony Kurtz and Democratic State Rep. Evan Goyke, has been formed to increase the health and well-being of all Wisconsin residents. Brian K Housh, Midwest Policy Manager for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, explains that a collaboration of senators and representatives from all regions of the state is critical to establishing policies and sustainable funding mechanisms that facilitate planning, construction and maintenance of recreational trails and active transportation networks to build strong and vibrant communities.
Housh further elaborates that Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation economy currently generates around $18 billion in annual consumer spending and supports approximately 168,000 jobs. Dramatic increases in trail use during the pandemic – ranging from 70% to 200% in some places – highlights the importance of this critical infrastructure.
Through “bike-partisan” partnerships and advocacy the Bike Fed strives to make safe, equitable and enjoyable cycling a priority in Wisconsin. You can celebrate National Trails day by visiting the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy website and urging your legislators to join the Wisconsin Legislative Trails Caucus and improve the lives of all Wisconsinites.