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Doughboy Trail plans stepping up

Members of New Richmond's Vitality Initiative took a rather damp tour of the future Doughboy Trail along the Willow River on Oct. 24. The trail is being developed thanks to a land donation by Bill and Gail Buell, and a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

New Richmond now has a signed grant contract from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that will help the community develop a new trail link through the heart of the city.

According to Joe Kerlin, director of the parks and recreation department, the Wisconsin Recreational Trail Aid grant totals $103,000.

In May of 2012 the city, with the aid of Bill Buell, Gary Bakke, Irv Sather and Jim Heebink and many other organizations, applied for the grant for a 1,800-foot trail connecting the north and south portions of the city along a portion of the Willow River.

Also included in the grant is fishing and viewing decks, a carry-in boat launch below the dam, benches and picnic tables. When the trail link is finished, the pathway will be lighted to allow for evening and night use.

The project was made possible by the donation of five acres of Domain Inc. property by Bill and Gail Buell.

According to Kerlin, the total budget for the project is $206,000. The grant will cover half the cost of the project. The Buell land donation totaled almost $50,000 and the city's portion will be about $53,000.

"Much of this will be city staff and volunteer labor," Kerlin noted, along with donations from local organizations.

Design and permitting of the trail is now being worked on, Kerlin said. Construction of the trail would is scheduled to start in the spring.

New Richmond's extensive trail system has been a community asset for years, but the system has always been split in half. Trails have been developed on the south side of the Willow River, and trails have been developed on the north.

But there has never been a real pathway linking the north to the south.

The Doughboy Trail will solve that issue and will provide a safe pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians, who have previously been forced to use the heavily-traveled Knowles Avenue to get from the north to the south.

Long-range plans are to expand the Doughboy Trail recreational area, when more funding becomes available. Land along High Street, currently owned by the railroad, may be purchased and a nature trail and park developed on that land.

Trail supporters also hope to construct a new pedestrian bridge over the Willow River, providing better access to the trail.

When the "Doughboy Trail" is finished, users will be able to travel freely from one end of the community to the other. The southern portion of the community trail would begin at Rail Bridge Trail, head west on Sixth Street West, then north of South Dakota Avenue. The route would then take a right on Second Street West, then another left on Minnesota Avenue and end near the dam across the Willow River. Bikers or walkers would then have to cross the dam on foot or navigate their way along Knowles Avenue to get to the other side.

The proposed trail, which would use city streets, would be designated a "bike route." The designation is different from a previous proposal, which would have established an actual bike lane on the roadways, thus eliminating parking for residents along the route.

The current plan would stripe and sign the route, but parked cars, bicycles and pedestrians would all be allowed to use the space.

From the northern end of the new trail, the bike route would cross High Street and follow Pierce for several blocks before heading west on Third Street North for a block. The route would then head north on North Dakota Avenue until it reached North Shore Drive West. The route would follow that road to the east until it reached the park connection at Hatfield Court.

A north-south trail has been the subject of serious debate since 2005. The idea nearly came together two years ago, but homeowner concerns along the proposed route derailed the effort at that time.