Monday Night Blogging: Wisconsin’s Own Scenic Trail from the Ice Age

This is the first of two posts I’ve planned on the Ice Age Trail. It’s also the first of a series of posts The Badger & the Whooping Crane will feature in 2016 about how various Wisconsin outdoor and natural resource entities are dealing with a drop off of the state funding they have long relied on.

The Ice Age Trail Described and Located

The Ice Age Trail is a one thousand mile footpath that meanders south from Potawatomi State Park (in Door County), to counties on the Illinois-Wisconsin border (Walworth, Rock, and Green), then it heads north up to Langlade and Lincoln counties, and turns due west toward Interstate State Park in the St. Croix River Valley. As it wanders through the state, the trail follows the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.

An Ice Age Trail sign, just east of the Wisconsin River on S.R. 33 in Portage. It marks the the 2.8 mile Portage Canal segment of the trail.

An Ice Age Trail sign, just east of the Wisconsin River on S.R. 33 in Portage. It marks the 2.8 mile Portage Canal segment of the trail.

Wherever you are in Wisconsin, you’re never that far from a segment of the Ice Age Trail. It travels through seven state parks or recreation areas, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the Point Beach State Forest and all units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. This link to the Wisconsin DNR page on the Ice Age Trail has more information about the trail’s intersections with state lands and other state trails.

Partners for the Trail

The trail and the non-profit organization that was part of its founding – the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) – share a fascinating, and mostly under-the-radar, decades old history, which I’ll be writing about here next week.

Although the sign (in the photo above) is placed right next to this view of the Wisconsin River, it parallels the river only a short distance . . .

Although the sign (in the photo above) is placed right next to this view of the Wisconsin River, it parallels the river only a short distance . . .

In addition to the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the trail is maintained and managed by a partnership that includes the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service. The Ice Age Trail is considered part of the Wisconsin State Trails system, and is the only one designated a State Scenic Trail. It is also designated a National Scenic Trail, one of eleven to earn the title.      

A “Bump in the Trail,” and a $25,000 Surprise

The Ice Age Trail earned national attention at the end of October when it was a winner in the online Michelob Ultra Superior Trails Contest.  According to Paul A. Smith at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, trail managers and their organizations were invited to submit grant proposals to the Anheuser-Busch company in partnership with the American Hiking Society.

. . . . . before it meets the Portage Canal and follows it through Portage in the opposite direction - northeast, toward the Fox River.

. . . . . before it meets the Portage Canal and follows it through Portage in the opposite direction – northeast, toward the Fox River.

Ten were selected for the online voting contest which ran throughout September and October, and the top vote-getters – the Ice Age Trail and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail – each earned half of the the $50,000 prize money.

This must have been a most-welcome surprise, as it helps the IATA plug about one-third of gap caused by the loss of state funding this year.  A blog post at the IATA’s website, August 28th, described the loss of funds this way:  “We hit a bump in the trail. . . . the recently passed Wisconsin state budget threatens the Alliance’s work on the Ice Age Trail.” A $74,000 capacity grant that the Alliance had applied for and received each year for more than 15 years was no longer available. The IATA asked for donations of money to help meet its commitments to its 2,300 volunteers and 1.25 million trail users.

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