Two years after opening, 30-mile bike-and hike path keeps
users coming back
Lakeshore Life staff
When the Ozaukee Interurban Trail opened two years ago, organizers knew
they had finally brought to fruition an ambitious project that would benefit
all of Ozaukee County for years to come.
But just because they had a gem on their hands didnít mean they werenít
also looking for ways to improve it.
Since its grand opening on Sept. 28, 2002, the trail has proven to be
worth every penny and every minute spent providing a venue for active people
both inside and outside of the county.
That was obvious to anyone who took to the trail and saw they werenít
alone in taking advantage of it. But organizers wanted more concrete
evidence that their efforts werenít in vain.
In August, the Trail Advisory Council with the help of volunteers from
Cedarburg High School set up at locations in Cedarburg and Thiensville and
In the course of just one week, more than 4,700 people used the trail
where it intersects with Freistadt Road in Thiensville, while just over
4,000 were tallied at the Keup Road intersection in Cedarburg.
We get a lot of questions about how many people are using the trail and
that sort of thing, Trail Advisory Council Chairman Andrew Struck said. A
rough approximation would put the totals at about one user per minute on the
It makes us feel wonderful to see numbers like that. Itís great to have
hard data to support what we already know. The trail is being used a lot,
and it feels good to get everyone involved.
Our advisory council and all of our volunteers are thrilled to see a lot
of work paying off.
Of course, the number-one concern of the council is the enjoyment of
county residents, but they arenít the only group lauding the trail.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources designated the nearly
30-mile route a Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail, paving the way for
a number of improvements that will make the experience even better for
The advisory council has explored the idea of placing signs and maps
along the trail to direct people to the best birding spots, Struck said, a
project he hopes will receive backing from the DNR.
But thatís small potatoes considering the plan currently in the works for
the part of the trail that weighs heaviest on the minds of users and council
The majority of the route that stretches from the north end of the county
to the south is off-road to ensure as safe an experience as possible for all
But to cross I-43 in the Town of Grafton, the trail flows onto Highway W
(Port Washington Road), which contains a fast, high volume of traffic,
That one blemish on an otherwise pristine 29.6 miles motivated the
council to propose a trail enhancement project.
The plan is to replace the two-mile, on-road portion with a 1.3-mile
route that will include a pedestrian/bicycle bridge spanning I-43.
With an estimated cost of $1.25 million, organizers knew they had a
formidable task in front of them. But a Congestion, Mitigation and Air
Quality (CMAQ) Grant from the DNR covered 80% of the funding.
That left a more attainable fund-raising goal of $250,000.
A little over $14,000 has been raised so far, Stuck said, but organizers
have just begun exploring avenues through which their goal can be reached.
Struck hopes contributions from foundations and private donors will bring
the plan to fruition and enhance the trail.
Itís going to be a major aesthetic improvement because people would be
able to access some beautiful woodlands and wetlands that are currently not
accessible, Stuck said. We just think it would be a good improvement for the
We want people to feel safe getting out there and improving their health
and being active. Weíve seen articles and research that says if a trail is
nearby, convenient and safe, people are much more likely to use it.
This project goes a long way to accomplishing that.
Struck estimated the potential impact of the improved path at more than
$800,000 because of the drawing power the trail has exhibited thus far. That
number hardly seems like a stretch considering the countless requests on the
trailís Web site for information regarding places to eat, shop and even
sleep, requests that have come from as far away as North Carolina, Virginia
But by no means are the benefits of the trail only being felt by local
The YMCA organized a Historic Bike Tour that will take place Sunday,
Sept. 26, the Grafton Booster Club recently held a fund-raiser that included
a run along a portion of the trail, and the Piggly Wiggly grocery store in
Mequon used part of the southern route to host its Pig Walk, which raised
money for Family Sharing of Ozaukee.
Itís those events that show the time and money to get the trail up and
running were very well spent.
We really support groups that want to use the trail for events and fund
raisers, Struck said. Weíre seeing a higher degree of requests for use of
the trail in that regard.
Everything we invest in the trail comes right back to us in that way.