Trail Improvements at Top of Park User Priorities

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) presented an update Nov. 14 on the master planning process for the 33,000 acres it manages in northeast Wisconsin.

Officials spent much of the session managing user expectations. Ann Freiwald, DNR landscape architect, described the process as a high-level outline for DNR properties in the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape.

“What this plan will say is that this activity is allowed at this property, and here is the level of development we would like to see,” Freiwald said. “What you won’t see is detail such as maps for new trails or guidance on where the trails should go or what they should connect.”

The DNR used to develop master plans on a property-by-property basis, a process that has been backlogged for years. This year a regional planning process was implemented that creates master plans by ecological regions. Door County’s five state parks, as well as all other DNR-managed properties, fall into the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape.

Freiwald expects a draft of the plan to be completed by the end of April 2018, with a final plan due to the Natural Resources Board in August of 2018. The plan will guide development of recreational facilities at the properties for decades to come.

Chesla Seely-Anschutz, an avid cyclist from Sturgeon Bay, said she hopes the planning process leads to improvements to off-road cycling and ski trails in the parks.

“Other than little bits of maintenance done mostly by volunteers, practically nothing has been done to improve the trails in our parks for years,” she said.

She’s not alone. The most common feedback the DNR has received in the planning process has been from users clamoring for more and improved road and off-road hiking and cycling trails. From Aug. 3 – Sept. 8 the DNR collected 1,571 public comments on the plan. The most commonly identified recreational opportunities needed were more hiking, walking and running trails, horseback trails, paved cycling trails and off-road cycling trails.

The DNR manages 33,000 acres in the region. Only 3.6 percent of the land in the region is managed for conservation. Statewide, 17 percent of all land is managed for conservation, but just 3.6 percent of land in the Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Region is publicly owned, and just 2 percent is managed by the DNR. Much of that is wetland, which isn’t developable for recreational use, making it particularly difficult for the DNR to provide all the recreational opportunities demanded by users.

Citizens may continue to submit public comments through Nov. 28 by visiting and searching for “master planning.”

Top 10 Most Frequently Identified Recreation Opportunities Needed

  1. Hiking, walking and running trails
  2. Horseback riding trails
  3. Paved bicycling trails
  4. Off-road bicycling trails
  5. Rustic campgrounds
  6. Public water access
  7. ATV and UTV trails
  8. Developed campgrounds
  9. Wildlife watching decks or platforms
  10. Local parks and playgrounds

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