The long discussed matter of the expansion of the Manitowish Waters bike trails received a new proposal at the Feb. 28 meeting of the parks and trail committee. Resident Tom Joseph came forward with an alternative to the planned town loop trail, which seeks to nullify previously addressed concerns.
Joseph said in his written proposal the idea of a town loop in Manitowish Waters is "a great one," however he questions the vitality of the suggested loop, which crosses the Manitowish River and Hwy. 51. Many have questioned the safety hazards in crossing the Highway and the environmental and monetary concerns related to building a bridge over the Manitowish River.
Joseph prefaced his plan by suggesting this is a "beginning point" and meant to encourage discussion at the parks and trails, plan commission and town board level. Joseph's description reads as follows:
"From the intersection of Hwy. W and the Discovery Center entrance, bike into the Discovery Center campus, then head north through a new section of trail until you intersect the existing DC (Discovery Center) trail just west of the transfer station. Follow that trail (which would be newly paved) north until it intersects the road cut from the recent logging operation.
"Turn right, riding through a nice stand of pines, then a cut over area. A new trail would then be cut that exists at East Circle Lily Rd. Follow East Circle Lily south to West Circle Lily Rd., cross Tower Rd. to the new proposed trail that parallels Tower Rd., east back to the DC.
Alternatively, from East Circle Lily Rd. follow the power lines south, then east back to the DC. Total length is estimated at four to five miles."
Joseph believes this plan is advantageous due to the desire for a true loop trail in town, that stays within the town lines of Manitowish Waters. He said the trail would be "quite flat," allow for accessibility to all ages and skill level of riders. Drawing visitors to the Discovery Center would be another way to increase visitation to a local attraction.
The trail would use a host of existing infrastructure, making for limited tree removal. There is also potential for the trail to be used in winter, as a connection to the Discovery Center trail system. The proximity to the Discovery Center would also allow for ample parking and bathroom usage.
Currently, an archaeological study is being conducted by the Department of Natural Resources along the original proposed location for the town loop. Resident Paul Frautschi addressed the potential for Native American artifacts being present along the trail at a January meeting of the Manitowish Waters Town Board. Joseph suggested it would be unlikely any artifacts would be discovered along his proposed trail.
"The trail is more likely to have broad community support than the originally proposed trail," Joseph's proposal read.
Joseph's idea does not come without issues and concerns, which he addressed later in the proposal. Namely, there is no current source of funding for the trail. Elizabeth Uihlein has offered to fund the original town loop plans.
In addition to other approvals (DNR and Town of Manitowish Waters), the trail would need approval from the Discovery Center and work in conjunction with their master plan.
Part of the trail would go along East Circle Lily Rd, while heavy trafficked, road sharing was sought to be avoided in the original plan. In addition, a portion of the trail would cross through recent cutover lands, but pines do exist, as well and regrowth "should happen soon."
Joseph encouraged the Parks and Trails committee to consider this proposal, along with other alternatives to best appease the residents of Manitowish Waters. He went onto note that consulting with a firm, such as Ayers Associates, to master plan the bike trail system may be in the town's best interest.
"I think it's a great alternative," Manitowish Waters resident Barry Hopkins said. Hopkins spoke on behalf of Joseph at the parks and trails meeting, due to Joseph being out of town.
"I believe we should ask the town board and the plan commission to consider this as an alternative option to the current proposal by Bike Trail, Inc.," Greg Holt, newly elected parks and trails chair said.
It was suggested to continue to keep in communication with Bike Trail, Inc. as the trail is being considered. It was recently moved at the town board level to work with Bike Trail, Inc. more closely going forward.
Whether Joseph's proposal will expedite the process or further muddle it is yet to be seen. Input from the public will continue to be gathered from the Town of Manitowish Waters on the future of the bike trail system.
Rest Lake Park Master Plan
Prior to the parks and trail committee meeting, the town board and plan commission combined with the parks and trails committee to receive three separate presentations of master plans generated by Ayres Associates for Rest Lake Park.
Input on the three plans was given by attendees of the meeting and several elements were agreed upon, including a handicap accessible car drop-off loop to the pavilion, the presence of a playground that fits with the natural landscape and a widened boat ramp with 12 "pull-through" parking stalls.
Blake Theisen of Ayres Associates said he will take the input into consideration and return with updated master plans on Monday, March. 6. Those updates will be features in coming editions of The Lakeland Times.
Evan Verploegh may be reached via email at email@example.com.