A local group of avid cyclists that built and maintains a mountain bike trail system in Hartman Creek State Park is spearheading an effort to establish a winter recreation trail.
The Waupaca Winter Recreational Trail will utilize Waupaca High School property and sections of the Wau-King Trail to provide an anticipated five miles of groomed trails for classic and skate cross-country skiing, fat biking and snowshoeing.
An increased need for winter recreation opportunities in the Waupaca area is the idea behind the project, according to Darrin Mann, a member of the Cronies Trail Crew, which is currently raising $40,000 to get the project off the ground.
Mann also works for the Waupaca County Parks & Recreation Department, which has agreed to groom the trail system and maintain equipment.
“We’re catering toward the beginning to intermediate silent sports athletes,” he said. “We’re optimistic and we’d like to see the trail on the ground this winter.”
About $30,000 of the $40,000 has been raised so far, said Amanda Mann, Darrin’s wife and a member of the Cronies Trail Crew.
That includes donations of $10,000 from the Action Communities for Health and Environmental Change (ACHIEVE) Committee of Waupaca; $7,500 from Waupaca Foundry Inc.; $7,500 from the Waupaca Communities Foundation; $500 from Bill and Mary Zimmerman; $500 from ThedaCare; and $500 from Dr. Robert Wubben.
The $40,000 will fund a utility terrain vehicle with tracks, groomer and trail signage.
“The funding is what’s needed to make it happen,” Amanda said.
A unique aspect of the trail is it will be open to skate skiing, a newer method of cross-country skiing that uses lateral movements familiar to inline, roller and ice skaters.
“Skate skiing is sometimes referred to as freestyle skiing,” Darrin said. “It’s like roller skating on skis.”
“You need a wider track,” Amanda said.
“This is going to be a multi-use trail about 15 feet wide,” Darrin said. “That includes a section of the corridor dedicated to snowshoers, a section to classic skiing and a section for fat bikes.
“Waupaca doesn’t have a venue specific to skate skiing,” he added. “If you go to any ski race or event, the majority of the participants are going to be skate skiing. The primary reason it’s attractive is it’s more efficient and it’s a lot faster.”
Fat biking – riding bicycles equipped with wide tires – is gaining in popularity as well.
“Trail access here is something that’s not really available,” Darrin said. “A lot of cross-country venues are reluctant to open their doors to fat bikes.”
“You won’t be able to ride a regular mountain bike on this trail,” Amanda said. “It has to be a fat bike.”
Darrin envisions a daily or annual pass to use the trail, but details have yet to be worked out. It could be set up similar to Waupaca County’s user system for the county’s boat landings, he said.
The project has the support of Waupaca County, Waupaca High School and the Wisconsin Veterans Home, Amanda said.
The trail makes sense because it’s already in place, Darrin said.
“The Wau-King Trail is dormant in the winter,” he said. “That’s what makes this so exciting.”
Whether the trail is in place this winter depends on funding, Amanda said.
“We would really like to have it all raised by the beginning of November,” she said. “We’d be able to purchase the equipment and signage before we have a significant snowfall.”
How to help
The Cronies Trail Crew is in the process of raising funds for the Waupaca Winter Recreational Trail. The group has raised about $30,000 of the $40,000 needed to make the trail a reality.
Anyone interested in contributing can contact Darrin Mann at the Waupaca County Parks & Recreation Department at 715-258-6243 or at email@example.com. Checks can be sent to the Waupaca County Natural Resources Foundation, c/o Cronies Trail Crew, 811 Harding St., Waupaca, WI 54981.