Last Tuesday, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced funding for the next phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail, along with several water quality improvement initiatives as part of his 2021 budget proposal.
The trail’s bridge and boardwalk that connect Lake Farm County Park with the Village of McFarland have become popular outdoor destinations.
Parisi’s 2021 budget includes $6.5 million for construction of the second phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail from Fish Camp County Park south of McFarland to Lake Kegonsa State Park.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to retreat to the outdoors where they can unwind and explore Dane County’s natural resources. By expanding the already incredibly popular Lower Yahara River Trail, we hope to help even more Dane County residents connect with the outdoors and immerse themselves in new recreational opportunities,” Parisi said in a release.
Plans and permits for this next phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail See BUDGET, Page are on track to be done by spring, with construction bids slated for release later next year.
“The day is nearing when Dane County residents and visitors will be able to hop on a bike in downtown Madison and pedal straight to Stoughton along a route of unrivaled scenic beauty,” Parisi said.
Water quality projects
Parisi is also including $1.75 million in the 2021 budget to expand the Continuous Cover Program. This program helps to preserve lands from the ongoing pressures of development, reduce run-off, and mitigate the effects of climate change. To date, Dane County has protected close to 700 acres of land in 22 townships. Converting to grasses and pollinator habitat has reduced phosphorus run-off into local waters by over 1,700 pounds a year.
According to Parisi’s release, interest by farmers and rural property owners continues to outpace available funding.
The Yahara Chain of Lakes Sediment Removal Project started this summer and is designed to improve flow—moving rainwater that currently sits in the lakes for weeks through at a steadier clip. This year’s work is focused on the area between Lakes Monona and Waubesa. When completed later this fall, the river will be 2 to 4 feet deeper, and 40,000 cubic yards of sediment will have been removed. Dane County purchased its own dredging barge and equipment this year, which is due to arrive in October. It will be deployed next summer as part of the second phase of flood risk reduction work and focus on areas downstream of Lakes Waubesa and Kegonsa. There is over $6 million in the budget, including $2.5 million in new money, for this work to stay on track next year.
“My 2021 budget prioritizes initiatives that improve the quality of our water in area lakes and streams to ensure they remain accessible for future generations to enjoy,” said County Executive Parisi. “The impacts of climate change and a growing community require us to adapt and create new solutions. Our initiatives—whether they be ‘Suck the Muck,’ the Continuous Cover Program, or our sediment removal efforts along the Yahara River—tackle these challenges head on and work to preserve our natural resources for many years to come.”
Other projects receiving funding in the 2021 budget include:
$150,000 for the Walking Iron Trail. Dane County has partnered with Sauk County on the feasibility, planning, and design of a multi-use trail bridge across the Wisconsin River. 2021 funding will be used for further analysis of the Wisconsin River channel and existing railroad bridge crossings. The bridge, when constructed, will link the Village of Mazomanie to Sauk City.
$100,000 for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail at the Ice Age Junction Natural Resource Area. Dane County, the City of Verona, the Ice Age Trail Alliance, and the Southern Chapter of Wisconsin Trout Unlimited worked together in 2019 to start restoring a segment of Badger Mill Creek and adjoining wetlands. The project includes realigning a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which has suffered from wet and muddy conditions.
$500,000 for the PARC & Ride Grant Program. PARC & Ride grants support development of regional bicycle trails that are identified in the Dane County Parks & Open Space Plan. Funds are awarded to local units of government and nonprofit organizations. Eligible projects now include bicycle playgrounds – an outdoor space designed to offer a variety of features and fun obstacles that safely build cycling confidence.
Dane County will continue its multi-year restoration of the 20-mile long Cap City Bike Trail next year with engineering work to identify long term solutions to preventing flood damage near the Badger State Trail overpass. Dane County refinished over 8.5 miles of the Cap City Trail in 2018 and 2019, improving safety for all users.
Parisi unveiled his full 2021 budget at the Dane County Emergency Management Office in Blooming Grove on Thursday, Oct. 1. The full 2021 operating budget totals $651,541,049. The capital budget is $71,649,300. The budget includes a levy increase of 4.09%, increasing taxes on the average home by $30.18, according to a release from Parisi.
To read Parisi’s full press release with 2021 budget information, visit https://exec.countyofdane.com/PressDetail/10723