Bikers and joggers in Dane County may have a whole new network of outdoor trails to explore in the near future, as the Dane County Parks Division moves forward with plans for a bicycle trail along the Lower Yahara River.

Dane County Parks Director Darren Marsh said the proposal to build the multipurpose trail was first discussed more than 15 years ago. He said the trail would extend approximately 16 miles along the Lower Yahara Natural Resource area and connect to the Capital City Trail to serve as a transportation upgrade between the Madison, McFarland and Stoughton areas.

“The trail will provide a unique and beneficial outdoor opportunity for people to get to natural resource areas that they may not normally know are there or have the opportunity to visit,” Marsh said. “This corridor will take them right down to see some of the areas of land that have been protected along the river.”

Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said the route has a lot of potential, and could provide tourists, as well as regular bikers, with a new and improved experience.

He added that the path would be a sustainable way for bikers and pedestrians to get to downtown Madison during the warmer times of the year.

“I really see this path as the connection,” Resnick said. “We need to be thinking about multimodal transportation and particularly not only for the recreational use but for the everyday commute. One car that is off the road is one less car that congests the Beltline, so I am encouraged by the expanded paths that the county is investing in.”

This county-funded project is almost finished in terms of preparation, Marsh said. He added that he expects additional funding for the project to come from Federal Transportation Enhancement and State Stewardship Grants.

The process for establishing the paths includes completing environmental studies as well as going through cultural and heritage research to ensure no disruptions will be made during construction, he said.

“Now it’s basically about having everything come together regarding our permits, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will be taking it forward to go for bid,” Marsh said.

Marsh said he is thankful to multiple organizations for assisting with the preparation of the project, including Metropolitan Planning Organizations for Bike Initiatives and the Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to the Lower Yahara River Trail project, Marsh said there are a series of anticipated additions to other Dane County trails as well. These proposed projects include extending the Badger State Trail to the village of Oregon and connecting the Mendota trails with Waunakee and Middleton, so a path can be established around the lake.

Marsh said construction on the path should begin late in 2014 or early 2015 if all plans go accordingly.

[Photo via Flickr Maxwell GS]