Boardwalk and bike

Madison residents Mary Cretney (left) and Mike Jonjak (right) explore Westport's newest recreational opportunity, a boardwalk measuring more than a quarter mile in length, which is accessible by both foot and bicycle.  The pathway spans from North Shore Bay to Woodland Drive, and is the latest segment in an expansion of the North Mendota Trail.  

Westport officials have reported that the second phase of the North Mendota Trail expansion is nearing completion, with the new pathway parallel to County Hwy. M now open for public use.

Construction of the path connecting Woodland Drive to Governor Nelson concluded April 25.

Town administrator, attorney and clerk Tom Wilson said all that remains in the project is the addition of signage along North Shore Bay Drive where bicyclists enter and exit the pathway.

“There’s a little bit of work they need to do yet on it,” Wilson said, “but it’s certainly getting its use. It’s been great to see. I think a lot of people in the Mary Lake neighborhood are discovering that they can now get to Governor Nelson with a nice walk or bike ride.”

Wilson estimated the final cost of the project – which features a quarter-mile-long boardwalk – at $1.1 million, noting that state and county grants would cover that amount in its entirety.

The town administrator said the largest expense involved in the project was a clear-span bridge.

“We had to build a bridge over Six Mile Creek,” Wilson said, “which is the costliest feature of this entire thing… And it’s never easy to build a bridge. It takes a bit of work. You need to have pretty strong abutments, and the ability to get over that area. We found the one place we could.”

Wilson attributed the project’s success to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which authorized use of its land for the project, and the county for providing majority funding.

Dane County Supervisor Tim Kiefer helped facilitate the project.

He described the new pathway as a safety improvement that came at the perfect time, citing the fact that many residents are engaging in recreational activities such as walking and biking as a way to occupy their time during the pandemic.

“With the COVID-19 shutdown,” Kiefer said, “people are appreciating the value of just getting outside for a walk or bike ride. So I’m happy the Highway M North Mendota Trail boardwalk is now open to the public. It’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, as well as a practical solution for bikes and pedestrians to get through a busy stretch of Highway M from the Woodland Drive intersection.”

Westport’s town-board chair Dean Grosskopf agreed.

“Since that’s opened,” Grosskopf said, “an amazing amount of extra traffic has been going by – particularly families on bicycles. So it appears that it’s being used a lot, which is really neat. I’m kind of anxious to try it myself.”

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