Better Mountain Bike Trails In Future At Peninsula State Park

Friends Group has funds to start construction this year

A $150,000 Community Investment Grant has paved the way to start construction in September on the first public, purpose-built, mountain bike trail system in Door County.

That’s the word from Friends of Peninsula State Park leaders Bill Penoyer and Brian Fitzgerald, who said the Destination Door County grant pushed fundraising to the $650,000 mark to start construction in September on approximately 15 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails in the park.

Those funds for the $1.2 million mountain biking routes came before the Friends launched a public fundraising campaign, said Penoyer, Friends board member.

“There are no state dollars going for this effort,” Fitzgerald said.

The Friends hired Colorado-based Scott Linnenburger of Kay-Linn Enterprises to design a network of mountain bike trails. 

“He’s designed some of the best trail systems in the country,” Fitzgerald said, mentioning some in Minnesota that allowed public use of three abandoned pit mines in the Iron Range for the first time.

Peninsula currently has 12 miles of “poorly designed” mountain bike trails, Fitzgerald said. 

Linnenburger said the existing trails are OK for skiing and snowmobiling but too wide and flat to be attractive to mountain bikers. Linnenburger’s draft plan, completed in January, utilizes the same eastern region of the park as the current trails, but the new 2-to-4-foot-wide ones will be “intimate with the forest.” He planned more than 10 miles of intermediate trails, and six miles of beginner-friendly trails that will be nice for a relaxing spin after work. 

“And there’s a rocky, lumpy section of terrain to appeal to enthusiasts who like to have a bit of a challenge as part of their riding day,” Linnenburger said.

Just as local ski club members, including Fitzgerald, maintain and groom cross-country trails in the park, volunteers maintain the current mountain biking trails.

“There hasn’t been much done to the mountain biking trails at Peninsula State Park since back in the 1990s,” Fitzgerald said. 

The 2018 Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Regional Master Plan authorized upgrades of the Peninsula State Park trail system including mountain bike trails, said Eric Hyde, superintendent of Peninsula, Newport and Rock Island state parks. The area’s only purpose-built mountain bike facility sits on a private property near Sturgeon Bay.

“There really aren’t any public trails in the entire county,” Hyde said. 

Also, Hyde said, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources took note when a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) report for the Upper Lake Michigan Coastal Lake Michigan Region showed very few mountain-biking opportunities. 

Different state parks have different objectives, he said, noting Peninsula provides a diverse span of recreational activities and uses. Meanwhile, the state works to keep much of Newport as wilderness. 

Hyde said the bicycle-width trails will be less intrusive than hiking, skiing and snowmobile trails. The plan from Kay-Linn notes that cutting of any tree over 6 inches would need approval of the superintendent.

A planner for Boulder, Colorado-based Kay-Linn Enterprises has mapped future mountain bike trails through diverse terrain on the southeastern half of Peninsula State Park. Photo courtesy of Scott Linnenburger.

The plans call for very few technical features – no large wooden jumps, no drastic wide-banked turns, a rock garden or two and a narrow boardwalk here and there, he said. Hyde said park staff will make sure the proposal fits all objectives in the regional Master Plan, and they will perform endangered-resource reviews and look for potential impacts on specific locations drawn for the trail. In spring and early summer, Hyde will see what sorts of plants are growing in or near the proposed trails and determine whether some need rerouting.

Low-impact trails with a natural aesthetic are the objectives. 

“They should be easy to maintain but we also want to provide that really quality ride that folks are looking for,” Hyde said.

Linnenburger said his plans would utilize two or three miles of trail that was improved by local volunteers. The park may close up to five miles of trails currently in place that are not used or maintained much, and work to make that land wild again, Hyde said.

Penoyer said the Friends hope to eventually fund a shelter or building at Lot 5 off Highland Road for hikers and cyclists to use.