Rhinelander bike and pedestrian trails begin to take shape
Rhinelander construction projects not limited to roads
BY EILEEN PERSIKE
Accessible pedestrian and bicycle paths can be seen in communities throughout the Northwoods. There are over 45 miles of paved trails connecting several towns in Vilas County and soon Rhinelander may be added to the list of bike-friendly cities. Work is underway on a river trail project that began with discussions several years ago when the new wastewater treatment plant was built and the Pelican River boat landing was upgraded. It was then that biking enthusiast and Rhinelander City Alderman, Alex Young, began putting together concepts of how to connect the confluence of the Wisconsin and Pelican Rivers and the rest of the city.
Today, along Kemp Street, west of the Chamber of Commerce, those concepts are being put into action. A path is under construction from Kemp Street near the Marathon gas station that will cross Sutliff Avenue and head toward the Chamber, cross Kemp Street and follow Boyce Drive to Shepard Park.
“When the former sewage treatment plant was demolished, they needed to fill holes left by some of the tanks,” Young said. “They were able to cut the grade of a steep bank in the park, use the dirt for fill and make the park more useable.” A two-track gravel trail along the Pelican River to Brunner Street will one day be paved.
“That stretch along the Pelican River is the longest contiguous part of the trail, and probably the coolest because it’s by the river,” Young said. “The vision down the road would be to connect some of the parks and some of the key areas like downtown. It would be nice to figure out a route near the old hospital and to Pioneer Park.”
Last week the city received a bicycle and pedestrian planning grant from North Central Regional Planning that will allow the city to update its current bike/pedestrian plan which is more than 10 years old. There have been some major changes since the plan was created, Young said. “We spent $400000 on sidewalks on Lincoln Street and now this [river trail] project. We need an update to reflect the newer projects and new goals.”
A new standing city council Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee tasked with overseeing the update has been created. Young said with the approval of the Premier Resort Area Tax, which goes into effect in 2017, the city will be spending substantially more money on transportation issues than it has in the past. Young says it stands to reason that while fixing up the roads, bike/pedestrian trail enhancements could be done, too.
“I anticipate meeting with Public Works in the fall to find out what road construction projects are planned for the spring,” he explained. “And with those projects are their bike/pedestrian improvements we want to see coming along with that.”
For alderman Young, seeing the trail under construction is a little surreal. “It’s one of those things, having been involved with the city since 2004, I’ve thrown ideas out there, 99 percent of which haven’t stuck,” Young said. “I am just so happy to see this come to fruition and can’t wait to be one of the first people to ride on it.”
The river trail project was awarded to Musson Bros. July. The $205,278 bid will be funded 50 percent by the city and 50 percent by a grant.