Hard work creates 25 years of outdoor recreationThe year was 1984 when the Burlington Northern Railroad announced its intent to abandon a 62-mile stretch of railroad right-of-way between Superior and Ashland.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
The year was 1984 when the Burlington Northern Railroad announced its intent to abandon a 62-mile stretch of railroad right-of-way between Superior and Ashland.
That meeting prompted a group of citizens to consider the future of the right of way and a task force was created
James McGraw and Frank Dumonsau of Superior, Jim Thomson, Robert Holmes and Bob Blaszkowski of Ashland, Darrell Beeksma of Washburn, Fred Jacobson and Calvin Miller of Iron River, and Steve Parker of Foxboro came together as the Tri-County Recreational Corridor Task Force after Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas counties’ Boards of Supervisors passed resolutions creating the task force
The vision of the group was to improve recreation and economic development opportunities in northern Wisconsin.
And this year, their vision marks 25 years of connecting recreational users of all kinds between Superior and Ashland along a trail corridor that traverses Amnicon, Poplar, Maple, Brule, Iron River, Ino and Moquah.
More than a quarter century ago, while the task force had a vision for the abandoned rail bed, there were uncertainties: What the property would cost and how they would pay for it?
While then State Sen. Dan Theno wrote a letter to the BN seeking donation of the land, the railroad’s response was “this was not customary.”
With offers to purchase portions of the line coming in, the task force was granted the “first right of acquisition.”
A formal commission governing the three-county recreation trail was established. Their next steps were to develop a formal offer to purchase and find funding to make the purchase.
In April 1986, commission chairman, Jacobson, received a surprise call from the BN offices in Texas; at the railroad’s beckoning, he traveled to Texas.
There, BN officials had another surprise for Jacobson: An agreement to donate the abandoned rail corridor.
Still facing a negative balance in the commissions’ check book, with limited funding and donations only slowly coming in as commissioners contemplated how to pay for decking on the bridges along the corridor and other amenities needed to build the trail.
With funding made possible by allowing all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile use along the corridor, the commission dedicated the trail Feb. 6, 1987.
Now, 25 years later, the trail is a place where runners, cyclists, hikers, cross country skiers, anglers and hunters, can drink in the outdoors of northern Wisconsin beside utility vehicle, ATVs and snowmobiles.