As one of the largest parks in the state of Wisconsin, Peninsula State Park also boasts one of the most intricate systems of trails for hiking, biking and skiing. As the winter approaches and area businesses close, the maintenance of these trails is especially important.
“It’s very important over the winter season because we have so many people that come up and like to snowshoe and ski and participate in those activities,” said Park Superintendent Kelli Bruns. “The trail system at the park is an incredible resource and we want to make sure everyone has a good chance to use it.”
Brian Fitzgerald is head of trails for the Friends of Peninsula State Park group. Fitzgerald and the Friends will host a trail improvement day on Sunday, Nov. 1, from 10 am to 4 pm. Throughout the day, volunteers will blow the trails, trim branches, remove rocks and roots and fill in holes.
“When you look at Duluth, Hayward, Seely, all these places are spending millions of dollars to expand their trails and doing it with success,” said Fitzgerald. “They are attracting folks to those locations to vacation, to have a second home, to live. If we can even be used in the same sentence as those communities it would be wonderful.”
“This year we decided to really try to get a larger group together in preparation for skiing,” said Bruns. “We continually try to get the community involved in helping with the trail system because we have many miles of trails and a lot of preparation goes into them whether they are used for skiing, mountain biking, hiking.”
This volunteer base is especially important at this time of year, when the state park’s office is dealing with a short staff and other responsibilities planning for the winter.
“This time of year it’s really critical,” said Bruns. “Not only because we don’t have our seasonal crew on to help with the trail maintenance, but the park is also shifting into its winter mode so we have to close down buildings, we have to get our equipment ready for plowing, we have trails that we have to mark. To get out and do some of that fine-tuned detail to make the ski season really good, it’s really critical for volunteers to come in and give us a hand with that.”
In addition to the manual trail work, the Friends group is also announcing the new Trail Improvement Fund. The trail fund serves as the capital for trail improvement projects. According to Fitzgerald, one of these projects is contracting a trail expert to create new trails throughout the park and improve the current ones.
While the forging of new trails is a project for the future, it may come along sooner rather than later.
“Everything we’re doing now needs to fall under the current master plan,” said Fitzgerald. “What’s exciting right now, with the master plan being opened in December, the timing is right for getting the silent sports enthusiasts together to work on the possibility of new trails and redesigning. When they originally built those trails, mountain biking wasn’t even around.”
Some of these long-term goals Fitzgerald is looking at include designated trailheads, shelters along trails and hiring experts to come in and help with redesigning the network of trails.
With the announcement of this designated trail fund, any new members that join the Friends of Peninsula State Park before Dec. 1 can designate 100 percent of their membership fees directly to the Trail Improvement Fund. Fitzgerald hopes this will encourage the community and trail users to invest directly into the aspect of the park that they enjoy most.
Volunteers for Trail Improvement Day are encouraged to dress for the weather, including sturdy shoes and good gloves. RSVP to Brian Fitzgerald at [email protected] or call 920.421.1518. Check in at Lot 5 on Highland Road. The Friends will supply all equipment and Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant is donating food and beverages for volunteers at 4 pm.