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Dane County Considers Expanding Recreational Trails For Hiking, Biking

Proposed Good Neighbor Trail Would Connect Mazomanie, Middleton

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The Dane County Executive’s budget includes $1 million to acquire land for a biking and walking trail that someday might connect two Madison suburbs – Middleton and the Village of Mazomanie.

The 18-mile stretch linking the two communities would run roughly parallel to Highway 14, where a bike commuter was killed in July while riding on the highway shoulder. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said safety is a major consideration in building trails, which has potential to draw tourists as well as accommodate local recreational needs.

“So this is really a reflection of what the community wants and needs,” Parisi said. “And we’re trying to be responsive to that both in county government and the local government level.”

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Parisi said the county parks department holds listening sessions to ask people what they want from their parks. Off-road trail development for hiking and snowmobiles, along with bicycle trails, are always on the top of the list.

If the county board approves the $1 million inclusion for matching trail grants, the county would begin a process that will likely take several years to complete, Parisi said. The project would begin with exploring the path’s potential route, dependent on landowners’ cooperation.

“The trail has to be identified. That’s where the ‘art of the possible’ comes (in),” Parisi said. “You identify the ideal path, but if you run into (resistance) – for example, a landowner who is not interested in selling or an easement – then you have to figure out how to go around it.”

Amy Hansen, Cross Plains Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, said she hopes for a cooperative, joint effort.

“(We’re) working really hard to make sure that this is the landowners, you know, participating and not just another organization coming in saying, ‘This is what we’re doing,’” Hansen said.

The county has made efforts to improve bike safety, including wider shoulders on the side of the road and flashing lights where paths intersect with busy roadways, Parisi said.

Dane County also spent $513,000 to help build the Wolf Run Trail, which is 3.3-miles of trail connecting Mazomanie to Wisconsin Heights High School. In the winter time, many students get to school by snowmobile using the trail.

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