Around a year-and-a-half ago, leaders of the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy unveiled the groundwork for an ambitious network of recreational trails around southeastern Wisconsin. The plan, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Bike Federation, was called the Route of the Badger, and it would encompass hundreds of miles of new and existing trails around the region.
This week in Milwaukee, people involved in that effort will host dozens of counterparts from similar trail projects in other metropolitan areas around the country in the first so-called Trail Nation Summit.
Route of the Badger Program Manager Willie Karidis says there are currently 340 miles of trails in the seven southeast counties of Wisconsin.
"A lot of these trails - like the Oak Leaf, the Hank Aaron, the Eisenbahn, the Interurban, they go certain places but some of them are fairy autonomous, so they're not connected to each other," he explains. "If we can build an additional 160 miles of trails to connect those 340 miles of trails, we'll have a network in all seven southeast counties and people will be able to get on the trails and just keep going."
Karidis says that the summit will help different cities fine tune their regional approaches based on the success of other connected plans, such as the network in Washington D.C.
Both the Wisconsin Bike Federation as well as the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, or SEWRPC, who created the Vision 2050 plan, play a key role in Wisconsin's regional approach, he explains. "They wrote the big, overarching plan, but now we're working on the plan to actually actualize the plan. A lot of the goals they've stated in Vision 2050 are coming to fruition with the Route of the Badger."