Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, City of Verona Mayor Luke Diaz, Town of Verona Chair Mark Geller, and Ice Age Trail Alliance representatives to announce an approximately 40-acre land purchase to expand the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Nov. 18. The property will create more opportunities for trail connections and parking, while further preserving the area’s glacial landscape.
“We are excited to form this partnership on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to increase outdoor recreation opportunities and continue our efforts to preserve Dane County’s natural resources,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “This effort will help even more Dane County residents connect with the outdoors and immerse themselves in our expansive system of trails.”
A portion of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail currently runs through the University Ridge Golf Course in the Town of Verona, ending at Woods Road. In 2018, with the County’s assistance, the City of Madison purchased land on the west side of Woods Road for a critical trail connection. The County recently negotiated the purchase of approximately 40 acres of land adjacent to this City owned land from Mary M. Christiansen, Loveday Herrling, and the Martha G. Cowling Revocable Trust.
The parcel is unimproved, with mature woodlands and rolling topography with some steeper inclines and contains a couple small ponds. Acquisition of the land will provide options for a trailhead, parking, and preservation of land within the Ice Age National Scenic Trail corridor project area.
“The City of Madison has the honor of being the largest municipality the Ice Age Trail passes through. This property adds nearly 40 acres to the Ice Age Trail corridor and is an important collaboration with Dane County, the City of Verona and the Town of Verona,” said City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “The land’s topography includes ridges and kettle ponds that provide very diverse habitats for a range of plant and animal species and connects to the 38 acres in the existing Moraine Woods Conservation Park located on the Johnstown Moraine. I’m so pleased we can be a part of preserving this land and making it accessible for the public to enjoy.”
Acquiring the property is a partnership between Dane County, City of Madison, City of Verona, Town of Verona, and the Ice Age Trail Alliance. The purchase price has been established at $2,700,000, based on appraised value. The County will contribute $1,660,000 toward the purchase and hold fee title to approximately 80% of the property. The City of Madison will provide $540,000 toward the purchase price and will annex and hold fee title to approximately 20% of the northern portion of the property, per a certified survey map, based on its contribution. This 20% ownership will be encumbered by a trail and conservation easement held by the County.
“As the Verona area grows, it’s critical that we preserve valuable natural areas for current and future generations,” said City of Verona Mayor Luke Diaz. “I think that Verona residents are really going to enjoy this area, once it is prepared and open to the public.”
The City of Verona will provide $500,000 toward the purchase and will hold a trail and conservation easement on the County’s 80% ownership. The Town of Verona will provide maintenance services including mowing and snow plowing at the property. The Ice Age Trail Alliance and its partners/ volunteers will be responsible for construction and management of the trail.
“Intentional land preservation for use by all is vital to the future of Dane County,” said Town of Verona Chair Mark Geller. “The Town of Verona is proud to support and encourage more interactive and cooperative planning between the Town, our adjacent City neighbors, and the County. We are excited to be a part of this innovative, regional partnership.”
The Dane County Parks & Open Space Plan recommends the acquisition of land for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. It was designated a National Scenic Trail by Congress in 1980 and is one of only 11 National Scenic Trails. The trail corridor traverses north and south through western Dane County and follows the end moraines that mark the furthest extent of the glacial advancement. The County, along with other units of government and the Ice Age Trail Alliance, work together to acquire lands in order to make trail connections and to preserve the glacial landscape.
“The Ice Age Trail Alliance commends and thanks Dane County, the Cities of Madison and Verona, and the Town of Verona for persistently working to help complete the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Dane County,” said Mike Wollmer, Executive Director/CEO of Ice Age Trail Alliance. “This purchase extends the band of parkland separating these communities, while protecting a world-class example of terminal moraine left behind by the last glaciation. It will make a fine location for a future section of the Ice Age Trail.”
Previously, County Executive Parisi included $100,000 in his 2021 budget 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 began working together in 2019 to help restore a segment of Badger Mill Creek and adjoining wetlands. The project included realigning a segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which had suffered from wet and muddy conditions.
County Executive Parisi included $300,000 in his 2022 budget to finalize restoration work of Badger Mill Creek and realignment of the Ice Age Trail threw the same area. He also included $100,000 to continue a partnership with the Ice Age trail Alliance to increase access to the Ice Age Trail through parking areas and trail development.
Last October, Dane County acquired approximately 295 acres of property in the Town of Berry to become a part of Indian Lake County Park. The $2.9 million parcel is located within the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Corridor and creates a critical off-road link for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, eliminating a dangerous on-road connecting route along Highway 19. In February 2020, Dane County also purchased 152 acres in the Town of Cross Plains for the Ice Age Complex as a trail and conservation easement. The easement limits development on the parcel and includes a 30-foot corridor along the east side of the property for the trail.
A resolution to authorize the 40-acre purchase of land for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail was be introduced at the county board’s Nov. 18 meeting. It is expected to be approved in the coming weeks.