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Trail extension faces obstacles

City chooses consultant for Newton Blackmour project

By Scott Bellile

Local geography will present a challenge in extending the Newton Blackmour State Trail to downtown New London, according to New London’s Parks and Recreation director.

New London City Council on Monday, Aug. 8, approved a $47,200 bid for the project as recommended by the Parks and Recreation Committee on Aug. 2, the one-year anniversary of the grand opening of the trail.

Engineering firm Ayres Associates will act as consultant for the project. That entails designing the next leg of the trail, acquiring necessary permitting and bidding out the construction.

Currently the trail ends at House Road east of New London. Hoerth told the Press Star Friday, Aug. 5, he hopes construction can begin in late 2017 to extend it to County Highway S. He anticipates a budget of $80,000 to cover Ayres’s work and some of the construction.

The eventual goal is to link the Newton Blackmour to Pfeifer Park in the heart of New London, which would boost tourism. Ayres must determine whether a proposed route along a soon-to-be-revived rail spur to River Road will work, or if it must be rerouted to somewhere such as North Water Street.

“The route hasn’t fully been determined,” Hoerth told the committee. “And then you’ve got the hypothetical route we’d like to take, but there’s a lot of unknowns in that because you go underneath the 45 bridge, 45 off-ramp, [alongside] 54, and you’ve got wetlands to deal with. So there’s a lot of unknowns.”

The “unknowns” or challenges could include: attaining proper state permitting, excavating the wetlands, installing retaining walls if necessary, stumbling upon endangered species or having someone flag the site for an archaeological dig.

Hoerth said the wide range in the four bids show the bidders are aware situations could arise. The bids ranged from $47,200 to McMahon’s highest bid of $88,275, which Hoerth said factored in anything that could possibly happen.

“We’re going to run into strange things along the way,” New London Mayor Gary Henke told the committee. “We always do whenever we build anything in New London, and I guess even if we have to come back to the change [order] to add more work or whatever, Ayres has done a lot of trail work and we should be OK. Even if we end up with a ton of work under Ayres, we’re still not going to end up with what McMahon’s high cost was.”

The 23-mile Newton Blackmour State Trail connects New London to Seymour, via Shiocton and Black Creek. The trail is anticipated to eventually connect to Green Bay.

The committee also approved a $10,600 bid by McMahon to act as consultant in extending two boat launch ramps at Riverside Park.

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