With a newly-announced $185,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department Natural Resources, a Cambridge group has wrapped up its fundraising for a long-sought, off-road bike route northward toward the Glacial Drumlin State Trail.
A committee that began meeting in 2017 has worked to secure local, county and state funding for the project, which would extend an existing route from a safe crossing at U.S. Highway 18 and England Street westward to The Vineyards at Cambridge neighborhood and then northward to State Farm Road.
At The Vineyards at Cambridge, it would connect into an existing 1-mile off-road neighborhood loop. From there it would continue northward through a 50-acre property owned by the Cambridge Foundation, to State Farm Road.
From State Farm Road, bicyclists would have to continue north on local roads for about a mile to reach the state trail.
Some Town of Deerfield officials and property owners have expressed safety concerns about bicyclists using narrow local roads to reach the trail.
The committee has said it hopes to eventually work with property owners to run the route off-road all the way to the state trail.
A Sept. 28 letter to the Village of Cambridge from the DNR notes that the grant is backed by federal dollars, including the Federal Recreational Trails Program and the Federal Land & Water Conservation Program.
The DNR letter said the grant process was “very competitive,” with 75 applicants seeking about $22.8 million. It noted that Cambridge’s award is tentative with some procedural steps remaining to finalize it.
Prior to securing the DNR grant, the largest award the committee had received was a $209,000 Partners for Recreation and Conservation (PARC) & Ride grant from Dane County in January 2019.
The existing route through Cambridge, from CamRock County Park to U.S. Highway 18, was also funded by a PARC & Ride grant in 2014. The original vision for the route was laid out in a written plan in 2008, in a cooperative effort involving the village, the DNR, the Dane and Jefferson County parks departments and the Cambridge Foundation.
The remainder of the estimated $409,000 total cost for the upcoming stretch has been covered by smaller contributions. Those have included $5,000 each from the Village of Cambridge, Jefferson County, the Cambridge Foundation and renewable energy firm Invenergy. it has also received about $3,800 from private donors including the Dancing Goat Distillery and the Cambridge Winery.
The Village of Cambridge has also been the fiscal agent for the ad-hoc committee.
In a statement, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said with the state grant secured “the funding resources are now in place to move forward on this much-anticipated trail connection,” that will “provide a new bike route near the communities of Cambridge and Rockdale and improve access to Dane County parks and natural resource areas.”
Parisi went on to recognize “the community-wide efforts of the Cambridge Connector Trail Committee, the Village of Cambridge, the Cambridge Foundation, private businesses, and Jefferson County for working to make this long-term vision a reality.”
“It’s exciting to have everyone come together and strengthen Dane County’s network of bike trails. These types of projects enhance our quality of life in Dane County and heighten our overall experience while enjoying the outdoors.”
Dane County Board Supervisor Kate McGinnity, who represents the Cambridge area, thanked the committee, including former County Board Supervisor Bob Salov, for its “hard work,” in planning and securing funding for the route.
“It’s that kind of community involvement that betters everybody’s lives,” McGinnity said.
Committee member and former Cambridge Village President Steve Struss called receipt of the DNR grant “great news.”
“It’s been a goal for a long time to get this connection not just for Cambridge, but for Dane County,” Struss said. He said the committee views it as more than a recreational trail. He said its also an economic tool for Cambridge.
“It could be a boost for our downtown, for our bed and breakfasts,” Struss said.
“It’s gratifying that we have finally reached our goal,” Struss said, noting that Town & Country Engineering, that did the preliminary engineering required for the DNR grant application, deserves significant credit for its work.
Jefferson County Board Supervisor Laura Payne, who represents the Lake Ripley area, thanked Dane County for helping to make the trail a reality.
In an email, Payne also thanked Salov, Struss, the Village of Cambridge, the Cambridge Foundation, the biking community “and all who have helped make Jefferson County’s longtime vision of a trail which links the local trail network in Jefferson County to Cambridge, and to a much broader network of regional trails, a reality.”
“This type of shared vision and regional cooperation is very important to Jefferson County and is invaluable to our communities. The trail will promote the health of our citizens, our environment, and is supportive and complimentary to economic development efforts in Jefferson County,” Payne said. “It has been my honor to be included in this group to benefit our community.”
Struss said the hope is to begin construction in the spring of 2021 and for the route to open late that summer.