Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Proposal For Glacier Hills

If you live in the Richfield/Hubertus area, then you're kind of far from a mountain bike trail.

We're at the very beginning of a process that could take years to produce results. Or, it might never produce results, but it's worth a shot. This was my proposal to Washington County's Planning & Parks Department at yesterday's public input session.

  • Washington County Planning & Parks seeks to raise revenue from its park properties to ensure their ongoing maintenance. To that end, the department is contemplating a user fee, the implementation of which will prove unpopular with park users if it is not accompanied by new amenities.
  • Mountain biking is a popular activity in southeastern Wisconsin for which riders routinely pay access fees.
  • Biking of any kind is currently prohibited on trails in Washington County parks.
  • Most county park properties are too small and too flat to be attractive options for the development of mountain bike trails. Glacier Hills is uniquely qualified.
  • Glacier Hills is located 30 minutes (by car) from each of the nearest public mountain bike trail systems: Minooka Park in Waukesha, Pleasant Valley Park in the Town of Cedarburg, and Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area in West Bend.
  • A properly developed mountain bike trail system at Glacier Hills, combined with a properly priced fee structure from Washington County, would make the park an attractive alternative to its more expensive neighbors.
Pleasant Valley: No fees.
Glacial Blue Hills: No fees.
Minooka Park: No trail fee. Motor vehicle fee of $4 per day or $32 per year.
All DNR properties (e.g., New Fane, Greenbush, Emma Carlin, John Muir): Trail fee of $5 per day or $25 per year. Motor vehicle fee of $8 per day or $28 per year.
CamRock: Trail fee of $5 per day or $16 per year. No motor vehicle fee.
  • Attracting mountain bikers to Glacier Hills would create revenue without creating new development/maintenance burdens, as trail construction and upkeep would be the responsibility of the mountain bikers themselves, in consultation with and subject to the approval of Planning & Parks. Such a relationship between the volunteers and the land owners already exists at the other trails.
  • There are three options for mountain bike access at Glacier Hills:
  1. Use the existing hiking trails only
  2. Develop mountain bike segments, connected by existing trails
  3. Develop a completely separate mountain bike trail
  • In Wisconsin, mountain bikers show an overwhelming preference for singletrack: narrow, winding trails that, at times, require advanced riding skills. The hiking trails at Glacier Hills would prove unpopular with riders. Those trails were not constructed for mountain biking and feature a lot of steep elevation change, and therefore would be prone to significant erosion. Add the potential for conflicts with hikers and it’s clear that the first option should be rejected.
  • Flat sections of the hiking trails could be useful to connect new singletrack segments. Glacial Blue Hills and CamRock feature such sections, with no significant conflicts between riders and hikers.
  • The best solution is a completely separate mountain bike trail system that merely intersects with the hiking trails as infrequently as possible. This model will take the most volunteer labor to construct and to maintain, but it offers riders the experience they prefer and minimizes potential conflicts with hikers.
  • Not all activities are suitable for all county park properties. Mountain biking could be unique to Glacier Hills and the ban on bikes could continue at the other parks.

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