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Trail passes needed for some activities

MADISON - With summer officially here, many people are tuning up their bicycles, getting out their rollerblades and oiling their saddles, preparing to head out to one of Wisconsin's many state trails. Wisconsin State Park officials are reminding ...

MADISON - With summer officially here, many people are tuning up their bicycles, getting out their rollerblades and oiling their saddles, preparing to head out to one of Wisconsin's many state trails. Wisconsin State Park officials are reminding those who intend to venture out to Wisconsin's state trails this summer that another thing they should have is a 2007 State Trail Pass.

The Wisconsin State Trail Pass is required to bicycle, rollerblade, horseback ride, or in the winter, cross-country ski on many state trails. However, pedestrians and those under the age of 16 do not need a trail pass.

Wisconsin boasts 42 linear state trails totaling more than 1,650 miles, many of which have been established on former railroad corridors, according to Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. In addition, there are hundreds more miles of mountain biking and horseback riding trails in Wisconsin state parks and forests.

Funds from sales of trail passes are used by DNR State Parks Program for maintenance and management but fall far short of those actual costs, according to Peter Biermeier, chief of external relations, planning and trails for the DNR Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

A recent study of state park system enforcement policies found that a significant number of trail users required to have a trail pass did not have one when they were encountered by trail officials.

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"Basically, we found that compliance with the requirement to purchase the trail pass before using the trail was not good, especially compared to activities such as fishing or hunting, where most people would never consider undertaking the activity before they purchase their license," Biermeier said.

State trails that require users to have a pass have signs noting the pass is required, and they are also listed in the Wisconsin State Park System Visitor's Guide. There are trailhead self-registration stations or offices where people may purchase a trail pass. In addition, trail passes are available at all DNR service centers and state park and forest contact stations, and many local businesses such as bike stores and service stations located near trails sell the passes. Passes may also be purchased with a credit card online through the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks Web site or ordered by phone at 608-266-2181.

"At $15 for year-round access and $4 for a daily pass to some of Wisconsin's best trails, the State Trail Pass is a recreation bargain," Brown said.

A $5 surcharge on top of the trail fee will be levied by a ranger or trail manager whenever they come upon a trail user without a pass. Deliberately avoiding a self registration station or not stopping to show trail officials a pass can result in a citation.

A trail pass is required for each person using the trail and is not transferable. So for instance, two people riding a tandem bicycle would both need a trail pass.

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