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City seeks grant for state trail

Newton Blackmour extension planned

By Scott Bellile

The city of New London is set to hire a firm to design plans for extending the Newton Blackmour State Trail into Pfeifer Park.

Ayres Associates Inc. of Ashwaubenon would create a 30 percent design plan, which is a preliminary drawing that provides enough information on the vision that the city could apply for a state grant.

Based on a recommendation made by the New London Parks and Recreation Committee on March 6, the New London City Council was scheduled to authorize the hiring of Ayres Associates at a cost of $24,900 after press time Tuesday, March 13.

The committee’s preferred route for the trail extension project could cost $920,309 to plan and construct, according to an estimate Ayres Associates provided the city.

To bring down that cost, New London Public Services Director Chad Hoerth would apply for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant. The grant helps local government units fund outdoor recreational projects.

The Stewardship Grant typically covers 50 percent of project costs, Hoerth stated in a March 6 memo to the parks and recreation committee.

The application deadline is May 1. If the grant were awarded, Hoerth stated the earliest the city could break ground on the trail extension would be 2020 or 2021.

Built on a former rail corridor, the 22-mile Newton Blackmour State Trail passes through New London, Shiocton, Black Creek and Seymour. The trail’s east end links to the Duck Creek Trail, which continues to Green Bay.

CLICK TO ENLARGE The proposed route for the Newton Blackmour State Trail extension runs from House Road past Granite Valley Forest Products, up London Lane to State Highway 54, and down River Road to Pfeifer Park. Ayres Associates image/Courtesy of New London Parks and Recreation

The trail’s west end stops at House Road just 1 mile east of New London.

The 1.5-mile extension would link the trail directly to Pfeifer Park, which is located within blocks of downtown New London.

In addition to paving the crushed limestone trail, the city would build a pedestrian and snowmobile bridge over the Embarrass River and into Pfeifer Park.

According to the contract between the city and Ayres Associates, the firm’s duties would include performing topographic and digital terrain modeling surveys, locating underground utilities, preparing a report detailing wetland delineation boundaries for the DNR and designing maps.

Back in December, the parks and recreation committee selected its preferred route for the trail extension during a meeting with two civil engineers from Ayres Associates, Craig Schuh and Adam Enderby.

At that Dec. 5 meeting, Enderby described the path of the chosen route, which is known as “Alternate 3” because it was the third of five original proposals.

Beginning at House Road, the trail extension heads southwest and cuts through land along the railway spur used by Granite Valley Forest Products. Then the trail crosses County Highway S and juts north along London Lane, a short dead-end street. The path turns to the west along State Highway 54 and continues under the overpass. Right after the overpass, the trail goes south down River Road and then finally, south of the Canadian National Railroad, crosses over the Embarrass River into Pfeifer Park.

A security fence would separate the trail from Granite Valley’s railroad.

A second path option that the engineers presented to the parks and recreation committee, Alternate 4, was estimated to cost $787,553, almost 15 percent less than Alternate 3.

Alternate 4 is similar to Alternate 3, only instead of following Granite Valley Forest Products’ rail spur to London Lane, it would stay alongside State Highway 54 for that entire portion.

“We looked at going behind Granite Valley. We looked at going down North Water Street. We looked at coming underneath the 45 overpasses and up that flat area on the west side of Highway 45 between the rail spur and [Highway] 54,” Schuh said of Ayres Associates’ other proposals. “Those all were areas that were discussed in several meetings, and running around, it came back to these two options that [the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and] DNR all wanted to see for [an] option.”

Schuh recommended Alternate 3 because although he is not keen on running a security fence parallel to Granite Valley’s railroad, he liked that the route keeps trail users away from State 54 for longer.

Committee member and First District Alderman John Faucher was surprised by the $920,309 price tag for Alternate 3 because he said he thought the whole 22-mile state trail cost less than that.

He was correct. The trail cost just shy $500,000 to implement, Kristine Butteris, management assistant for Outagamie County Parks Department, told the Press Star last week. She noted two DNR grants, not county taxpayer dollars, paid for the whole project.

At the December meeting, Hoerth responded to Faucher’s question about cost by saying Outagamie County had a “lot easier scenario” than the city of New London.

The base of the Newton Blackmour trail was a former railroad track that had already been pulled out of the ground, Hoerth said. Whereas in the case of the trail local extension, the city would need to pave new trails into the terrain.

Schuh said the options for where the city can direct the trail extension are limited because of the presence of wetlands.

The DNR typically does not allow wetlands to be filled in unless the resulting project will bring in jobs, Schuh said. As an example, he cited, without naming, a development coming to southeastern Wisconsin – a reference to the Foxconn plant to be built in Mount Pleasant.

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