A pair of trail extensions and a new trail at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources bird sanctuary on Wisconsin Point are in the early planning stages, but garnered support from the Wisconsin Point Committee on Wednesday, July 22.
The trail proposals would create extensions of the Bear Creek Trail — currently in the second phase of construction — to Dutchman’s Creek and the first lot along the beach of Lake Superior.
Another trail proposal would allow public access to an observation point on the newly restored bird sanctuary. It would lead to an observation point where people could watch the piping plover without disturbing the critically endangered birds. The habitat was restored last year with the goal of bringing back the shore birds to the area. Nesting pairs last settled in the Twin Ports in the 1980s, and the birds were placed on the Federal Endangered Species list in 1986. The bird sanctuary project created about 14 acres of open sand and cobble beach in the Allouez Bay.
The committee approved moving forward with layout of the trail and seeking funding for its construction at the bird sanctuary.
Construction of the Bear Creek Trail is underway this summer and expected to be complete this year, one year ahead of schedule.
“I’m really glad to hear that,” said Tom Bridge, chairman of the committee. “I didn’t think it would be done until next year.”
While the original plan was to build the trail in three phases over three years, additional funding was available this year through the Community Development Block Grant program, said Linda Cadotte, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.
“The crew has been working diligently and rented some specialty equipment that made it more feasible as well,” Cadotte said.
She said crushed concrete components of the trail are done and the crews are working on timber crossings. They will still have some restoration work to do before construction is completed this summer.
The first one-mile segment of the trail opened last fall, running from Bear Creek Park to the creek.
“The last time I was in last week, the bridge was not much further along than it was a couple of weeks before … but it looks like there was a lot of work done on the other side of the creek there,” Bridge said.
“That was purposeful,” Cadotte said. “The bridge will be the last piece of it. It won’t go any further until the end.”
She said the goal is to keep people out of the area where crews are working to finish the trail to Wisconsin Point Road.
With work nearing completion on the trail, Cadotte said attention has turned to trying to connect the trail with other places on Wisconsin Point. She proposed two extensions. The first would navigate through the area where clean dredge materials from the Howards Bay Project will be deposited to Parking Lot 1. The second extension would go to Dutchman’s Creek.
The second trail extension would require support from Douglas County, which owns some of the land in the area, Cadotte said. Wetland delineations needed for the first extension would be handled by the city’s wetland coordinator and permits sought if needed, she said.
The city has applied for funding through the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, but that hasn’t been determined, Cadotte said.
Karina Heim, a member of the committee and the Coastal Training Program coordinator for the reserve, said there is some question of whether it falls within the reserve boundaries, but the application has been floated.
“I know there is a desire from the mayor and others to have a continued trail-building effort built into our capital improvement program budget annually,” Cadotte said. “Now that we have a system down these last couple summers and have become quite efficient with that, there will be some potential to coordinate with Howards Bay and some of the city funding. Perhaps county funding could be requested as well.”
Committee member and Douglas County Board Supervisor Michael Raunio said he would be happy to help the city shepherd permissions to cross county land through the committees.
“I think this is a great idea,” Raunio said.
The committee unanimously approved moving forward to develop plans for both trail extensions.
“I think this is an awesome amount of progress and a great next step,” said Nick Danz of the University of Wisconsin-Superior, a committee member. “I’m 100% behind it.”