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Trail saved at Hartman Creek

The Dike Trail was recently repaved and repaired with help from the Friends of Hartman Creek State Park. It was almost closed for good because of sinkholes and craters. James Card Photo

Path almost abandoned

By James Card

The Dike Trail at Hartman Creek State Park has been repaired and repaved with crushed limestone and is ready for hiking.

Recently, it was almost abandoned because of its horrible condition. The culprits were a combination of Mother Nature and some nuisance muskrats.

Muskrats sometimes make lodges that are similar to beaver lodges but they also find homes underground. They burrow into the banks of rivers and lakes.

The entrance to the den is below the water line and the tunnel that leads to the den above the high-water mark can be up to 45-feet long. They also dig air shafts to the surface and other entrances and escape routes.

These underground voids caused sinkholes to form on the trail and eventually it became pockmarked with ankle-breaking potholes and small craters. One pothole was large enough to swamp a four-wheeler.

This was the main cause of the Dike Trail falling apart, along with rainfall and erosion making the mess worse.

The Dike Trail is a one-mile path that circles Hartman Lake and on the north shore, the trail is bordered by the lake on one side and a small slough on the other side that forms Hartman Creek at the spillway at the east end of the lake. In this section surrounded by water, the muskrats could burrow into the trail berm from both sides and create more havoc.

“I met an older couple on the trail and they said they gave up walking the trail because it was so dangerous,” said Park Superintendent Jarrod Kehring.

He said they had to close it many times to patch it up and they considered abandoning the trail because of the resources needed to fix it.

With help from the Friends of Hartman Creek State Park, park staff was able to receive funding for the rebuild project from grants from the Waupaca Area Community Foundation Fund and the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, along with matching funds from the Friends of Hartman Creek State Park. The total project cost was $37,000.

The new surface of the crushed limestone is nice for an easy stroll and stable enough for people using mobility aids. It connects to the paved trail on the south shore of Hartman Lake.

The trail can be accessed from the beach area of Hartman Lake and from the park shelter area where the Dike Trail separates Mid Lake and Hartman Lake. The trail also connects to other hiking trails, a bike path and the Pope Lake Hiking Trail.

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