Blue Mound Park Group Sues DNR Over New Snowmobile Trail

Friends Of Blue Mound State Park Object To Proposed Snowmobile Trail Cutting Through Park Used By Skiers And Hikers In Winter

Snowmobile on trail
In this Dec. 31, 2012 file photo, a snowmobile travels a newly-groomed trail in East Montpelier, Vt. Toby Talbot/AP Photo

A plan to expand a state park in Dane County has hit a snag. A nonprofit group called Friends of Blue Mound State Park has filed a lawsuit over one of the changes that calls for a new snowmobile trail through the park.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Dane County Court contends the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and its policy arm, the Natural Resources Board, failed to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment and that increased snowmobile use could create a dangerous situation for silent sport recreationists, create a nuisance, and impact habitat for native plant and animal species.

“Increased snowmobile use could create a dangerous situation for silent sport recreationists at trail crossings,” the lawsuit says.

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The current snowmobile route is along roads in Blue Mound State Park, what snowmobilers have called “undesirable” “ditch-riding,” according to the lawsuit.

Changes approved by the DNR’s policy board May 26 would create a new trail through a part of the park called Pleasure Valley, which contains hardwood trees and grassland.

Three people hold poles as they ski
People cross-country ski on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, at Elver Park in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

In DNR’s master plan for the state park, which straddles Iowa and Dane counties, the agency says the change would “create a more desirable snowmobile experience, which maintains the connection between the Military Ridge State Trail and county trail system, while limiting impacts to the property and its other users.”

Among other changes, the master plan would also:

  • Create new mountain bike trails.
  • Allow for electric bicycles.
  • Redesign snowshoe trails to make them less confusing.
  • Expand the family campground area.

But adding a new snowmobile trail to the park has become controversial, pitting snowmobilers in support against other users of the park. Blue Mound State Park is southern Wisconsin’s highest point and snow tends to last longer. In winter, it’s a magnet for those who hike, ski and winter bike.

Cross country skier, Amy Grunewald, of Madison, says snowmobiles will be noisy and could damage the environment.

“I’m disappointed that once again, the thousands of miles of snowmobile trails in Wisconsin will be expanded,” she said during a public hearing last month of the Natural Resources Board.

The president of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, Dave Newman, supports the new trail through the park.

“We feel that state properties should be open to all user groups,” he told the board.

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