Waupun administrator urges making bike trails a priority

August 29, 2017

Waupun is planning a road to the future, and that road includes bicycles.

City Administrator Kathy Schlieve got that message loud and clear as she met with members of the Waupun Recreation Board at the city’s senior center Monday night.

The city recently completed its Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and presented it to the Common Council, with a list of recommendations to bring parks into the 21st century.

However, no money has been allocated to implement that plan, and the top priority is the renovation of McCune Park, a facility that has suffered reduced use ever since its public beach was closed some years ago. Another item left on hold was the idea of bike trails, even though Main Street includes bike lanes that don’t connect to others – whether on streets or trails in or out of the city.

“What I’m here for today is to say we have some opportunities coming up that could secure grants (half from the city and half from the grant) to help fund some of this plan,” said Schlieve. “The question is do we attack the grand plan, portions of the plan, or something else? The seed I want to plant is to get you talking about priorities. Our priority is McCune Park, but Jeff (Collien of Club Fitness) has a perspective on the bike trail which I think is really important.”

“I was able to obtain a bike trail plan that was written sometime in the early 1990s, and it was beautiful,” said Collien. “It went through the city. It went out to the Horicon Marsh.”

The plan was put together by an intern from Madison and was shelved without action.

“When I was president of the Chamber we looked at Waupun and decided the only way it was going to grow was to build the school system up and build up the quality of life,” Collien said. “Once people moved here the jobs would start coming to feed and entertain the people.”

When the city’s pool was completed several years ago, a bike trail was also part of the plan. It, like the Main Street bike lanes, lacked connection to a bigger plan.

“There was talk at the time that they’d get it to go all the way to the high school, which we thought was about safety for kids,” Collien said. “That way kids could ride a bike to school. They were not in the streets. They could get on the bike trail and get to school without getting hit by drivers texting and not paying attention. They got it (a trail) to the middle school, but it’s not all the way yet, and it felt at the time that it just stalled.”

He added, “This is a huge issue for quality of life in Waupun. If you go to Fond du Lac, for example, you’ll see there are bike trails everywhere. It’s all part of quality of life – and safety. Safety is the biggest thing right now. In my mind we should make it a priority.”

Previous efforts to connect to the nearby Wild Goose State Trail reportedly stalled, with roadblocks coming from state highway and prison farm officials and other conflicts.

“We’re in no way decision-makers but we can recommend,” Schlieve said. “In conversations with Jared (Oosterhouse, city finance director), he said things can be done. It’s more a matter of starting to work it into our plan. Tomorrow night we’re presenting our capital improvement plan to the council, and there is no line item for this kind of thing at this time. I’m not here to speak for the council but I am here to say that if we don’t bring a plan forward, we’re not going to get anywhere. Action needs to be taken.”

Costs have been obtained for the renovation of McCune Park to the tune of $1.8 million, but Schlieve urged the group to perhaps place bike trails on a higher level of importance.

“Purely from an economic selfish perspective I think a bike path lends itself more to economic development than finishing McCune,” said Schlieve. “It’s a matter of establishing priorities and starting to knock things off.”

No comprehensive plan to improve the park was ever created.

New member Jan Harmsen recalled that a group of Waupun Memorial Hospital physicians had raised approximately $5,000 for the purpose of establishing a bike trail.

Schlieve added that grants may be obtained to fund planning such things, although there is never a guarantee of receiving them.

“Pursuing that would make some sense to me, but if we want to do that we need to get started because it will take time,” she said.

Schlieve urged the group to consider the matter at upcoming meetings, and to pursue its wishes through the council as soon as possible.