Partnership increases safety on Ice Age Trail

A water crossing on the Ice Age Trail in Lincoln County that was in repeated peril of washing out has been replaced with a much more permanent structure. A new bridge was constructed to provide hikers a safe crossing over the spillway at the Grandfather Falls dam off Hwy. 107 in the Newwood area.

The crossing had washed out before, noted Herb Schotz, president of the local Ice Age Trail chapter, and the replacement crossing was in the process of eroding out at the banks.

The total cost of the bridge was approximately $40,000. Mike Wollmer, executive director of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, said the American Reconstruction & Recovery Act provided about half the funding for the bridge. Wisconsin Public Service contributed a $4,000 grant, and a significant donation from Church Mutual Insurance Co. also benefitted the bridge project.

“This was a real nice partnership,” Wollmer said.

Local Ice Age Trail volunteers helped by removing the old bridge and building the approaches to the new one.

The spillway crossing at Grandfather Falls was a safety issue, Wollmer noted.

“We were able to look to our partners and come up with a solution,” he said.

Jamie Nuthals, WPS natural resource manager, said there were some challenges to getting the project finished. He had to work with the federal government as the bridge is on WPS land within the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission controlled boundary of the dam.

“The Ice Age Trail Alliance was excellent in dealing with those aspects,” Nuthals said. “The project fit with state, federal and WPS requirements. This bridge is safer and it gives us a better feeling.”

The former crossing was located on the spillway downstream of the concrete channel. When the spillway was opened to control floodwaters or clear debris from the dam, the old crossing was vulnerable to being overrun by water or damaged by floating logs. The new bridge is constructed right over the concrete channel at a height that puts it out of harm’s way.

Rita Weichmann and Tom Algire are the local volunteers responsible for the stretch of trail on which the new bridge is located. They said the new bridge greatly improves safety and access for hikers.

The Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin will ultimately be about 1,200 miles long. It is located on a patchwork of public and private lands from St. Croix Falls in the west to Door County in the east. The Ice Age Trail Alliance has purchased about 43 properties and holds at least as many easements. Some of the longest continuous trail segments are in northcentral Wisconsin, including Lincoln County.

“This whole trail is based on partnerships,” Wollmer said, “For any one entity to do it on their own would be impossible.”

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