A group of enthusiastic mountain bikers recently approached the DeForest Village Board to propose building a trail specifically for their hobby.

Five DeForest residents, ages 12-14, attended the village board’s Dec. 17 meeting and talked about the benefits of mountain biking, how a trail could be set up in the area and potential economic impacts the sport could bring. Max Acker, Eli Engel, Max Mitchell, Maddie Mitchell and Hadley Jones all addressed trustees during a presentation they created.

The group said mountain biking poses an opportunity for people to get outdoors, put down their smart devices and exercise. In their preliminary vision for a local mountain bike trail, it’s a three-foot wide path in a wooded area near the Yahara River Conservancy. The trail could also be open to hikers and dog-walkers, according to the group.

The youths even offered to help create the trail and maintain it. According to them, they could use tools they already have to clear away leaves and brush. The individuals told the board the area they’d like to utilize was once a walking path, so there is an existing outline in the landscape.

During the presentation, the group also speculated a mountain bike trail in DeForest would lead to customers for local businesses, such as restaurants and gas stations, as people would come to the area to use the route.

Additionally, the potential trail would benefit the newly established DeForest Area Mountain Biking Team, which got its start in the last year. According to Patrick Rogalla, the coach of the team, who was also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, there were 67 student athletes from DeForest, Sun Prairie and Madison East high schools practicing on the Sun Prairie trail system for the sport this year.

“Ultimately if we could pursue some type of trail system here, we would be looking at hundreds of people occupying the trails on a weekly basis,” Rogalla said.

Rogalla went on to call mountain biking a “life-long sport,” leading them to believe the potential trail in DeForest could be used by all ages.

All trustees in attendance at the meeting (Jeff Miller was absent) voiced support for the idea and commended the group for coming forward. Trustee Abigail Lowery mentioned how a recent community survey for the village’s parks and open spaces plan revealed residents wanted something more for pre-teens and teenagers.

“It would be nice to have more amenities for kids your age,” Lowery said. “I think this fits in nicely with that.”

Village President Judd Blau recommended the group and coach connect with Public Services Director Kelli Bialkowski to see if the project would be possible.

“The board is certainly amendable to potentially looking at it,” Blau said. “It comes down to do we have land and is there a cost?”

Village staff focuses in on core values

The board voiced general support for village department heads to begin work with Strategic Partners Marketing, LLC and The Perk to create an intentional workplace culture and develop core values during its Dec. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Human Resources/Communications Director Corie Hoffman brought the proposal to do a “culture deep-dive” with the village hall administration and public service department to the board. According to Hoffman, the program would help identify staff’s core values and desired behaviors to “ultimately re-energize” their service mindset.

“We have great people here,” Hoffman said. “It is more of a ‘let’s step it up a notch.’”

Hoffman gave the example of when the village adds a new development that includes more streets, some employees may have the attitude that it just equates to more work.

“Hopefully through this process we can turn that around to say, ‘More streets means you’re a part of success in DeForest,’” Hoffman said.

Village Administrator/Finance Director Steve Fahlgren said they expect the program to be successful. He explained that it will mostly impact internal relations.

“We’re already good, we just want to be that much better,” Fahlgren said. “… We want our staff to understand what they do, how they interact with each other.”

According to a memo by Hoffman, the process will include a meeting with department leaders to “determine the ideal culture, define success of the project and how to measure it, start defining values at a high level (and) outline a full-staff workshop.” After that, an employee survey will be analyzed, which will lead to an all-staff workshop with team exercises, individual reflections and targeted activities.

The project, with a cost of $12,925, will be financed by the village’s future benefits fund, so “there will be no direct impact to the taxpayer levy for 2020,” according to Hoffman’s memo.

Trustees were generally supportive of the program, although Lowery wanted to see testimonials from others who have used the companies’ services before and Trustee Jason Kramar was unsure how success of the project will be measured.

Hoffman said a post-program staff survey will be compared to the pre-program one to determine its effects.

Trustee Jane Cahill Wolfgram, who said she has worked with organizations on similar endeavors, said forming core values helps with hiring, service delivery and other practices.

“It is important to have a neutral party come in and help to lead the process, because we all come to the table with our own biases,” Cahill Wolfgram said.

According to Hoffman, staff will begin the process in early 2020.

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