Ice Age Trail chapters to merge
COVID-19 impacts trail maintenance
By Greg Seubert
Changes are in store for two local chapters of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Alliance.
The Waupaca County and Portage County chapters are in the process of merging into the Portage and Waupaca Counties Chapter.
The Alliance’s board of directors was expected to approve the merger at its April 15 meeting.
“We’ve been working on this for over a year,” said Debbie Krogwold, who has been involved with the Waupaca chapter for more than 25 years and will chair the new group. “I honestly don’t see any way that this is not going to happen. They’re excited about this as well.”
The new chapter will maintain more than 23 miles of trail in the two counties divided into five segments: Waupaca River (4.9 miles); Hartman Creek (5.6 miles); Emmons Creek (2.6 miles); Skunk and Foster Lakes (4.4 miles); and New Hope-Iola Ski Hill (5.6 miles).
“We’re excited because we’ll now have a greater volunteer force,” Krogwold said. “I believe we will be able to have more work days because we know there will be more people that will be active.”
The county chapters have teamed up for several years to hold a fundraising hikeathon in the fall.
The 1,000-mile-long trail, which passes through 31 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, is currently open to hiking, but is feeling the effects of COVID-19, according to Krogwold.
“All volunteer activities on the trail have been cancelled,” she said. “We cannot go out on the trail and that’s come down from the National Park Service, which is one of our partners. We did have a work day scheduled in April at Hartman Creek State Park to do some garlic mustard work and we’ve had to cancel that. Any type of major trail maintenance has been put on hold. We do have outreach events that have been cancelled where we set up booths to get the word out to people about the trail.”
Those events include the Portage County Cultural Festival in Stevens Point and the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer.
“Our main fundraising event – the hikeathon – doesn’t happen until fall,” Krogwold said. “Right now, we are still planning on doing that. I have a feeling that it might do very well this time because people can get out.”
The chapter does have a plan of action once volunteers can return to the trail. That plan includes cleaning up damage from a July 2019 wind storm that toppled several trees on the stretch of trail that passes through the Skunk and Foster Lakes State Natural Area between Waupaca and Amherst.
“We’re planning on having at least two chainsaw crews out there to address that trail,” Krogwold said. “It it walkable. It’s not like it’s totally devastated because we had chainsaw crews out there last year. It is open, but there are some areas that need to be addressed. That will be one of the main projects.
“The first thing we’re going to want to do is get our mowers out there and cut the grass so people can get on the trail,” she added. “When the sun is shining, the grass is going to take off. We’re also going to try to address the garlic mustard at Hartman Creek State Park and I know there’s some erosion along some trail tread, so we’re going to have to have some work days to address some of those issues. We’re going to be raring to go as soon as this is all lifted.”
Trail sections open
Two sections of trail – between Edminster Road and State Highway 54 in the Hartman Creek Segment and from County Trunk T to Krogwold Road in the New Hope-Iola Ski Hill Segment – are temporarily closed because of boardwalk issues.
However, the rest of the trail is open, Krogwold said.
“Get outside, close your mind off to everything that’s happening and see the sights and hear the sounds,” she said. “A lot of the trail is on private property, so respect the landowners and stay on the trail. We really haven’t had problems with people doing that. When people go out, they are very respectful.”
Hikers heading out to the trail might encounter trees in the way.
“There might be trees that have fallen over the winter,” Krogwold said. “If you do some sticks and branches on the trail, remove them. That would be really helpful to us and other hikers. We just ask that people be patient with us. If there’s a tree down, they may have to walk around it until we can get out there.”
Information on the trail can be found at www.iceagetrail.org.
“We’re always looking for people that might be interested in helping with trail maintenance or outreach events,” Krogwold said. “It’s a great organization to be involved with.”