New London to expand trail to Pfeifer Park
By Scott Bellile
Children on bicycles tore through a banner adorned with balloons to mark the grand opening of the Newton Blackmour State Trail at Lake Park in Shiocton on Sunday, Aug. 2.
About 100 people celebrated the trail’s recent completion at a ceremony held in 90-degree weather before Sunday afternoon’s thunderstorms. Although the state trail had a soft opening within the past year, the fanfare of Sunday’s event informed the public that the trail is ready for outdoor enthusiasts.
The 24-mile Newton Blackmour Trail—open to foot traffic, bicycling, snowmobiling and horseback riding—has been 12 years and $500,000 in the making, according to Tom Nelson, Outagamie County executive. He envisions the trail becoming as revered as the 32-mile Elroy Sparta State Trail in Western Wisconsin if the state continues to develop it.
“If we continue what we began today, we can become the Sparta Trail of Eastern Wisconsin right here in the heart of Outagamie County,” Nelson said.
Locally the trail starts on House Road in New London. It weaves through Shiocton, Black Creek and Seymour. The state plans for it to reach Green Bay one day.
House Road won’t remain the local starting point forever. The plan is to connect the trail to Pfeifer Park near downtown New London.
Right now Granite Valley Forest Products on County Road S is looking into taking over a rail spur on the city’s east side that has been unused for close to a decade.
If New London is awarded a rail line rehabilitation grant, then the trail could be continued alongside the revived railroad, according to New London Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth. If the city doesn’t win the grant, then the railroad could be removed and replaced with a continuation of the Newton Blackmour.
Hoerth said the city could learn if it received the grant this fall. Either way, he said the Newton Blackmour will be an asset to those who enjoy being physically active.
“Wisconsin is huge in biking and nobody knows it,” Hoerth said, adding that Wisconsin is the most represented state in the National Bike Challenge. Wisconsin has 11,844 riders as of Tuesday, Aug. 4, triple that of runner-up Nebraska.
New London Mayor Henke said he expects a boost to the local economy in the future with the amount of traffic expected on the trail.
“The number of bikers in Wisconsin is unbelievable,” Henke said in agreement with Hoerth.
Seymour cyclist Morris Andre said the Newton Blackmour offers a more enjoyable ride than a road surface.
“It’s a little more relaxed ride. It’s a little slower,” Andre said.
Terry Dawson of Appleton said he and his wife Marsha bike the local trails. Also citing Wisconsin’s standing in the National Bike Challenge, he said the Newton Blackmour will serve bikers well.
“We’re glad to see that being officially open,” Terry said. “Looking forward to spending more time on it.”