Digging Deeper Into Northern Door Trails Plan

What’s next for trails from Sister Bay to Egg Harbor

Community-input meetings on multiuse trails made a big splash when speakers mentioned a route linking Sturgeon Bay to the north tip of the Door peninsula someday.

Until unifying some of their efforts over the past few months, municipalities from Egg Harbor on the south to Liberty Grove and Sister Bay on the north worked on trail projects independently. 

The unified approach created buzz during two open houses Dec. 13 in Egg Harbor. The meetings attracted cyclists, National Park Service project partners, taxpayers, hikers, a Wisconsin Bike Fed trail proponent, tourism leaders, a congressional staff member, state legislators who discussed funding scenarios and strategies, a state transportation official, TV news crews and an administrator of Door County Medical Center (DCMC), which has made donations and pledged support for trails that improve community connectivity.

“The world’s longest-lived peoples live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it,” said Brian Stephens, DCMC CEO. “This is just the kind of project that gives you that little nudge to walk to town or bike to town.”

How Much Might Some of These Cost Taxpayers?

Building off-road trails is expensive – think about building a one-lane road from scratch, said Susan Stauber, Egg Harbor Trails Initiative volunteer Trails Facilitator.

“There isn’t any way we are going to be able to do this if we don’t get donations and grants,” Stauber said. Even federal grants require 20% in matching funds from local governments.

At Sister Bay, Village Administrator Julie Schmelzer said the cost to complete one mile of paved trail along Highway 57 from Northwoods Drive to Highway 42 – including curb and gutter, road-crossing features and storm drain work – would reach about $1.13 million. She said a half-mile trail along the Highway 42 hill south of the village past Bay Ridge to the town line is estimated at $1.4 million.

The Town of Gibraltar received a $120,000 federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant for trail planning, and Town Administrator Travis Thyssen said donations and grants will cover the biggest cost of creating a trail through much of Fish Creek and then southward past Little Sweden. The town is trying to buy the 190-acre Marise Redmann properties for $1.5 million. That includes 126 acres that will be joined with Fish Creek Park, a strip along Spring Road and land near the Settlement Shops about a mile south of the downtown. The town has $900,000 so far for that land purchase.

When the sewer line goes in, the town will backfill and put two miles of trail on top of that material, Thyssen said.

Also in Gibraltar, Thyssen sees the straight, lightly-traveled Quarterline Road at Juddville as a logical route for multimodal traffic to County Road EE and Egg Harbor’s proposed trail, but there’s still a two-mile missing link between Juddville and Hedamora Hills near Little Sweden.

When Might Trails Get Completed?

Egg Harbor officials started talking in 2019 about a four-and-a-half-mile trail linking the village beach to Frank E. Murphy County Park, but a beach-to-beach trail could be the last of four possible routes to be completed.

Egg Harbor Village Administrator Megan Sawyer said she’d like to see one of four proposed village trails under construction within two years. Those routes include one from County Road EE to Church Street; the beach-to-beach route; a trail from the five-way intersection at County roads T and G past Landmark Resort; and a route from downtown to Rainbow Ridge Court businesses and condos.

Egg Harbor Village Administrator Megan Sawyer addresses the crowd at the Kress during the multiuse trail open house. Photo by Greg De Tennis.

Stauber said the two National Park Service community planners and Egg Harbor Trails Initiative leaders will analyze survey results and comments from the open houses, and build matrices from the results to see which of the village’s four proposed trails is easiest to tackle first.

Stauber also said the timing can depend on trail type – off-road or sharing the roadway – and which types of projects are attracting Wisconsin Department of Transportation attention for funding, such as safe routes to school or safe routes for workers.

Sister Bay prioritized the rapid completion of a trail along Hwy 57 to the downtown from new apartment developments, past hotels and the new Door County Medical Clinic. Schmelzer said if the village can’t gain full funding for a trail along 57, it already budgeted for a gravel or stone surface this year to shift pedestrians off the roadway for safety reasons.

“On Hwy 57 we have a lot of J-1 workers, a lot of elderly people and income-constrained people who walk on that route,” Schmelzer said.

Sister Bay received a $90,000 Community Investment Fund grant earlier this year and more than $20,000 from the medical center to get started.

However, the village needs grants and engineering to complete the paved Hwy 57 trail by 2025. The half-mile state Highway 42 trail extension south to Townline Road also has a 2025 target date. 

Sister Bay has a 2025 target date for engineering but as late as 2028 for completion of trails and wetland boardwalk from the Sister Bay downtown, past the fire station eastward, to a 56-acre parcel the village purchased with hopes of attracting a workforce housing development.

Near the southeast edge of Peninsula State Park, construction by 2026 is the earliest possible scenario for a multi-modal trail parallel to Hwy 42 from Ephraim to Fish Creek.

Though it’s drawn on park land, it is not a state project at this time, said state park superintendent Eric Hyde. The Village of Ephraim and Town of Gibraltar each would be responsible for construction of half.


Survey responses welcome through Dec. 31

Egg Harbor volunteers and two National Park Service employees working for free due to a grant won by Egg Harbor Trails Initiative ( will continue accepting survey forms and suggestions at until Dec. 31. The Initiative extended the survey deadline due to overwhelming response – 1,321 submissions by mid-December. Volunteers also are welcome at

What the people want:

So far, survey results and responses at the Dec. 13 open house clearly showed most hikers and cyclists prefer off-road trail to bike lanes along or adjacent to roadways. “Based on our unique challenges here in Door County, that may not always be possible, but the message is clear that we should aim to achieve whatever we can that is closest to that ideal,” said Susan Stauber, Egg Harbor Trails Initiative volunteer.