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Pave the Bugline Trail: Yes, Please

Paving Waukesha County's Bug Line trail makes sense: the funding is available to increase the accessibility of this scenic resource, opening it to new uses and people with disabilities.

The from the Falls to Merton isn't new, but like most anything in Wisconsin these days, it faces newly hatched opposition.

In the May 16, 2012 edition of the Sussex Sun, Joan Griffin of her is quoted as saying "The biggest reason not to do it is that the majority of the people, plain and simple, do not want it." Her source for that data is not cited. She's collected about 1,000 signatures opposing the paving, though the same Sun article points out that more than 70,000 people live near the trail.

Dave Burch, speaking on behalf of the paving project, said that ADA compliance is one of the biggest reasons to pave the trail. ADA refers to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Signed into law in 1990, it affirms the rights of a minority of the population who face a wide variety of special challenges: blindness, deafness, mobility, dexterity, etc.

Like the passage of other civil rights legislation before it, it recognizes that discrimination of a particular class of people occurs, and is inherently contrary to America's founding principles. Indeed, America is at her best when she recognizes the contributions and worth of her diverse population.

"The biggest reason not to do it is that the majority of the people, plain and simple, do not want it." If that's the biggest reason, Griffin's movement is in trouble. When people fail to accomodate minority rights, it is the obligation of government to assert that all men are created equal.

ADA compliance makes one strong case for paving the Bugline, and it's one that Friends of the Bugline dare not oppose. If Griffin's group were to come out and say they didn't want wheelchairs on the trail, one hopes they'd have a hard time collecting signatures, particularly at the churches some said they'd bring the petitions to (see ). Such a statement would amount to bigotry.

I don't believe limiting access to the trail is Griffin's intent. From what I've read from her on Patch, she appears to believe that wheelchairs are just fine on the trail as-is, and that there are plenty of paved trails elsewhere, anyway. She's not entirely wrong, but not entirely right, either.

Is limestone gravel really an impediment to wheelchair use? Wheelchairs vary in their ability to cope with rough terrain, but certainly gravel can present a problem. My wife's electric wheelchair can cope with the densely packed areas, at least, but it is not a comfortable ride for her; the smallish tires make it bumpy and unpleasant. My wife can't use a manual wheelchair on her own, but I'm fairly certain that trying to self-propel a manual wheelchair on the current Bug Line would take a fair amount of stamina over any great distance.

My wife and I also have a bicycle of sorts: the front end is basically a detachable wheelchair that rocks back onto two wheels, and the back half looks like a conventional bicycle that I can sit on and pedal for both of us, steering by turning the wheelchair half. This works marvelously well on paved surfaces, but it is awful on any lesser surface.

Disabilities and mobility equipment vary, but one thing is certain: paving the Bugline will improve its accessibility.

The contraption itself weighs about 85 pounds, plus my wife's weight, plus mine. I'm healthy enough, but at 150 pounds, it takes some effort to keep that thing moving; and, again, my wife finds unpaved trails too bumpy to enjoy. We've given up on the current Bugline for this bike; we have to haul it out to Fox Brook Park and content ourselves with pedalling around the pond, or head out to Waukesha's Glacial Drumlin trail to enjoy it. It'd be great to just pedal a couple blocks to get on a paved Bugline.

Disabilities and mobility equipment vary, but one thing is certain: paving the Bugline will improve its accessibility. It will also open the trail to skateboarders, inline skaters, and any kind of stroller. County Supervisor Jim Jeskewitz was quoted as saying "The amount of participation almost doubles on the other paths that we’ve paved throughout the county."

That may speak more to the heart of Griffin's concerns, and those of many current trail users: they don't want the increased traffic. Certainly there are legitimate concerns here, like bicyclists using the trail at speeds that put other users at risk. On the other hand, some petition signers would probably prefer less people on the trail, regardless of their activity, but the Waukesha County Park system is not an exclusive country club. Equal access is a vital consideration, regardless of how many opposing signatures are collected.

Some petition signers would probably prefer less people on the trail, regardless of their activity, but the Waukesha County Park system is not an exclusive country club.

Some other concerns are less credible, such as damaging the natural beauty of the trail. Apparently, some residents believe that crushed limestone trails cutting through the woods are a natural phenomenon, and somehow less manmade than a paved surface. This argument should not sway county executives; the beauty of the trail is not its surface, but the surrounding scenery. Enjoying truly natural beauty requires one to leave a trail, and Wisconsin affords many opportunities to do this.

Still others are concerned about the cost of the project. The Sun article states that , and if the county doesn't take advantage of the funds they'll be spent elsewhere. I think it'd be a pity if Griffin's crusade shuts down this opportunity to make the Bugline more accessible.

From where I stand, if they pave it, great; if not, well, life goes on. It's not a life-or-death issue. I don't have the time to organize opposition to Griffin's opposition. Her passion for this is admirable.

But this is Wisconsin, after all, where angry people gather, grumble, sign petitions, organize recall efforts, and deface one another's political signs. Here's : "Personally, I am outraged at the idea of paving it."

And then there's : "'Alright, so who woke up one day and said we needed to pave this trail? Name the person,' demanded Jim Ziolecki of a county official who was obviously caught off guard by the intensity of the question. 'If it was the County Board, was there a public outcry to pave the trail? Answer my question!'"

Outrage. Public outcry. Lovely. Just read some of the (mostly psuedonymous) comments on the Patch articles referenced above; the anger is palpable. It's a sad state of affairs.

The beauty of Wisconsin is disappearing, no doubt -- not so much under pavement, but through the erosion of civil discourse.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robin May 21, 2012 at 10:09 PM
I guess I am ambivalent about the actual paving, but I am VERY concerned about the up keep. Where is the money going to come from to maintain the asphalt? Will each community be responsible for the up keep of their section or ......? Has this even been discussed? If not, why not? This good intention could end up costing all of us thousands of dollars in the future.
Dave Ruske May 21, 2012 at 10:22 PM
That's a fair point, Robin. How much does the gravel take to maintain versus the paving? Neither comes free, but if one is substantially costlier than the other it is something that should be taken into consideration. This may work either for or against the case for paving; I truly don't know.
Common Sense Conservative May 21, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I've said it before.....Menomonee Falls already has a paved trail it doesn't take care of. Have you been through Lime Kiln Park lately? It's horrible!
Dave Ruske May 22, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Agreed, Lime Kiln Park needs attention. We were last there in early March.
James Gottemoller May 22, 2012 at 03:26 AM
My neighbor is handicap. She gets on her little handicap 3 wheel scooter and she is off. I will have to ask her opinion if she wants to see it paved.
Johnny Paycheck May 22, 2012 at 04:05 AM
James, please! "Physically disabled" is the preferred nomenclature...
Andy Ambrosius (Editor) May 22, 2012 at 04:53 AM
It is proven to be quite a bit less expensive to maintain an asphalt surface than the limestone one currently in place. Kind of odd, don't you think? I would have assumed it would be easier for them to maintain a gravel trail that doesn't need plowing, repaving, etc. County Parks reps told us all at the latest meeting & the "Friends of the Bugline" crew agrees.
Daniel S. May 22, 2012 at 12:17 PM
We cannot make the world equally accessible for everyone, regardless if it seems to be a noble cause, or due to some laws that were not entirely thought through before they were enacted. Many people are physically challenged and there are alternatives in life that can be chosen. We the mentally challenged need to realize that it is not in the best interest of society to attempt to adapt everything to the physical challenges presented. In many cases the challenge needs to be approached from a different angle than the one we undertake. In this case, I see the need for development of an ATWC; that would be All Terrain Wheel Chair. Usable anywhere the person were to travel (within reason); a better idea. PS - within reason is something to remember when contemplating any undertaking we are challenged with.
Joseph May 22, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Using the ADA reasoning is a cop-out. If this was an ADA issue, this would have been done years ago. I'm calling BS!
SenseForSussex May 22, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I think I have a solution that will make everybody happy. Roundabouts! Let's put roundabouts on the bugline! I'm sure there is federal money for it. It will keep bugline traffic flowing like no other trail has. In all seriousness, I'm torn between paving and not paving, so as I usually do, I make a pros and cons list. (Keep in mind this is my opinion) Pros for paving: -ADA while accessible by most, paving would make it even more accessible, and comfortable for those with disabilities -Paving would make the trail wider, which for me would be a plus whether it's paved or limestone -You would POSSIBLY bring people from different communities in to use the bugline, in turn POSSIBLY spending money at local business like bars and restaurants -If upkeep is really less expensive, paving would be a plus (though I argue there will be no upkeep whether it's paved or remains the same) Cons for paving: -TAX MONEY, TAX MONEY, TAX MONEY -Trail will lose that "natural outdoors" feel (yes crushed limestone looks more natural than blacktop) -I like the current amount of traffic on the trail, I don't really want more (selfish I know) -My knees certainly won't benefit from it when I run on it There you have it, now we can all form our own opinions.
MaryJo Pogorzelski May 22, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Wait until you have a disability. Your story may change. I was in a car accident years ago. Walking on gravel is very difficult for me. I want to be able to walk with my husband and my dog! You never know when something will happen to you.
Menoparent May 22, 2012 at 01:00 PM
In Brookfield they are making paved sidewalks on Capitol Drive in these hard economic times, lol! Don't think many people walk up that way where businesses are all going to Bluemound. But we see people walking west on Silver Spring to get to the bus line to go to work in the Falls. And here village ideologues complain about a trail that has funding and the rest of the trail is already paved. Why? Just to keep their cheap-minded ideals in place and to stunt the economy at every turn. People will be employed for the project. Get over it and pave it!
Mike B May 22, 2012 at 01:20 PM
The ADA argument is BS as there are TONS of other paved paths for people to use. The ADA laws don't state that every single thing in the world has to be appropriate. There just has to be options available. But Waukesha is taking the mindset of screw the masses for the good of the few. There are how many miles of paved sidewalks and other paths in the Menomonee Falls, Sussex, Lisbon, Lannon, Merton areas? Dozens? Hundreds? If they do pave the path, does that mean the horseback riding will no longer be allowed on the path? So they get screwed over as well? If it's going to get paved, why not have a paved path and then a 5-6 foot wide section that is the way it is now, right next to it. Then you have the best of both worlds. Personally I ride my bike on the bug line because it's a beautiful, scenic, rustic path. Where else can I get that. I can get a paved bike path anywhere. The Bug Line is one of the last of its kind and should be protected.
Jann May 22, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Someone will eventually get laid off if it will REALLY be easier to maintain. Get over that!
Angie May 22, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Great article! It's been my experience that ADA is just one of those unstoppable forces out there, there's really no way to oppose it that I can see.  I'm glad someone is speaking out so all the owners of strollers and mobility devices can enjoy the trail in a few years. To all the protesters, I admire their conviction, but I think it would be better served to find some REAL injustice.
Craig May 22, 2012 at 01:54 PM
The limestone path crosses wetlands, and that explains why a lot of it gets washed out in places. I think pavement will be undermined by the highwater at times during the wet season. In Winter the water will freeze buckling the pavement. Shady Lane near Menomonee Ave is a prime example. If an 8" thick asphalt road can't hold up and be maintained, I doubt a 4' thick slab of asphalt will require no maintenance given the type of terrain it is running through. Again I question if this will cause more problems for homeowners who live along the bugline trail. The water run off will be greater, and the ability for flood waters to flow away will be hampered. Run some grading equipment and compactors on the existing bug line, save the asphalt for the roads.
Jann May 22, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Craig: I agree with you. Also, how much vegitation will be removed to widen the trail? I noticed that a homeowner between Roosevelt and Christman removed almost all the vegitation behind his yard leaving an almost empty berm. Since he did this the water is running off the berm leaving the trail in that area wet. I don't know what homeowners are allowed to do with that area since I thought it was county owned, but if everyone did this the trail would be very wet.
Rick Vodicka May 22, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Personally, I think its an enormous waste of money. The world is not perfect...it can't be everything to everyone all the time, common sense would tell you that life doesn't work that way. Government rarely operates under common sense pretenses though. As far as where the money goes if the county doesn't use it or how much it costs to maintain the trail...you will get different answers from people based on their biases. You can manipulate numbers anyway you want to make case either for or against the project. A survey is only as good as the objectivity of the questioning and reporting of the results. The same applies to the "studies of projected maintenance costs". If the people putting together those numbers want the trail paved, they can easily slant the numbers that way. You can get very different answers to same questions depending on how you ask the questions. Implying that people are against disabled people if they're against the paving of the trail is over-reaching and just a ridiculous argument. Widening and paving the trail does nothing to maintain it's recreational feel. It will increase the speeds on the trail. Someone above mentioned this as well....if this trail "has" to be done...where does it all end? Why not pave all trails? My lot backs up to the trail, I use the trail from time to time.....I think the trail is in pretty good shape. There are obvious spots that need repairs, so just repair those spots and be done with it.
Craig May 22, 2012 at 09:18 PM
A trail that has funding???? You mean the Obamabucks that pays for PART of it? The Obamabucks that come from taxes that we all pay? The rest of the bill will be footed by Waukesha County taxpayers. Cheap-minded ideals...LOL... Keep spending more than you earn....that be stupid ideals.
Daniel S. May 23, 2012 at 04:35 AM
Could you imagine if the Federal Government required the National Park System to make all hiking trails ADA compliant? We'd be spending Trillions! And it would be the ugliest thing in the world. While we're at it, NATO should get behind a campaign to create an ADA compliant path to the top of Mt. Everest . . . . .
Dave Ruske May 23, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Since a few people have taken the effort to express themselves in terms of making Everest or even the moon accessible, I thought it might be worthwhile to knock down this particular straw man. The Bugline trail isn't Everest, nor is it every trail in America, and I'm fairly certain the lunar surface would be even more inconvenient to get to than the Glacial Drumlin trail. Making everything accessible is an absurd extreme, as would be making nothing accessible, and paving the Bugline falls well in between, far within the margins of intelligent discussion. You may choose to draw the line in one place, I may choose it in another, and that's both reasonable and expected. It is that point from which we can debate and weigh the merits of a proposal, and while not everyone will agree with the outcome, hopefully that outcome will benefit our area as a whole and align well with the principles we aspire to. My thanks to everyone here who has commented, for or against, without becoming mean-spirited. I firmly believe that it is possible to disagree without shouting or being unkind, and I want to believe that, for the most part, I live in such a community.
James Gottemoller May 25, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Sorry, name keeps changing. No harm intented.
James Gottemoller May 25, 2012 at 02:33 AM
The interesting thing is that we got some good dialogue on the issue. Early discussion was all about economics. Now the talk of ADA. I am actually curious about the amount of traffic on the trail. Will we see a substantial increase in usage if it is paved? Do we know what the average usage is for a spring summer fall? Will the usage increase by say 50% or more with the dollars spent? ADA or not, if the usage doesnt increase or is very marginal, I would think that the money could be better spent elsewhere. I guess a poll would be a good idea.
Dave Ruske May 25, 2012 at 04:53 AM
From http://brookfield-wi.patch.com/articles/county-to-answer-questions-about-bugline-trail-paving-project-f0356343 : "County Supervisor Jim Jeskewitz told Patch in January that paving the Bugline is all about increasing accessibility. He said usage increases whenever the county paves a trail. 'The amount of participation almost doubles on the other paths that we’ve paved throughout the county,' Jeskewitz said." Doubling usage is pretty significant, and it doesn't strike me as too surprising. Even leaving aside accessibility and new uses of the trail (skating, kids on their skateboards, and whatnot), when I'm alone on a standard bicycle I much prefer pavement to the Bugline's crushed limestone. A poll isn't a bad idea, but getting meaningful data requires a random sample and questions phrased without bias. Web-based polls frequently become skewed popularity contests, where people encourage their friends to go and vote a particular way, some voting multiple times from different browser sessions or different computers, if the survey just uses a cookie to track the user. Where someone has went to the trouble of petitioning in opposition to the paving, I would be highly suspicious of any unscientific polling; a few passionate people can spoil the results.
James Gottemoller May 26, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I spoke with my neighbor whoses wife is physically disabled. They are both against paving the trail. They prefer the trail as it is. I asked him to sign on and comment for themselves.
James Gottemoller May 26, 2012 at 09:52 PM
once a year grading with a road grader is a low cost means of leveling the ground and reducing potholes.
James Gottemoller May 29, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Another neighbor mentioned another thought. Once the path is paved, will we start to be required to pay a fee to use the trail?
Mike B June 22, 2012 at 02:13 AM
OK, so I learned some incredibly disturbing facts tonight about the Bug Line repaving that I had not heard before. Apparently because it's Federal money, the path has to meet Federal guidelines. This means the path is going to be 16 FEET WIDE?!?! a 10 FOOT WIDE paved path and 3 FEET of stone/dirt/gravel on each side. Holy Crap! Why the heck would we need a path that freaking wide? That means we're going to lose like 10 feet of wooded area from where the path is now. That's a complete waste. Now I'm REALLY against paving the path...
Heather July 01, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Being out on the bugline in this weather (95 degrees), I really appriciate the gravel... it does not radiate heat like asphalt. Gravel is also softer, easier on runners and most bikes do just fine. (I've even seen some road bikes...) Some people have bikes that wouldn't do well on the trail, some people have wheelchairs that wouldn't do well on the trail... some people have bikes, wheelchairs or running shoes that do just fine! If it's something you're interested in, you need to get the right equipment, disabled or not. Don't pave it! There are plenty of paved trails around. The bugline is one of few that remains packed gravel. It's beautiful, cool and has a natural feel to it. The gravel goes back to when the bugline was a railroad servicing the quarries... so though it's not 'natural', it is part of our history. And yes... by paving it we would lose a lot of wooded area.
Heather July 07, 2012 at 04:52 PM
So I defintitely didn't mean to say "Screw you", which is what my last comment looks like. The bugline is the ONLY packed gravel trail within running/biking/riding distance of Menomoene Falls and Sussex. As it stands now, the Falls has two major trails... the Bugline and the one that runs from the Lime Kilns down through Rotary Park... one is paved, one is not-- leave it that way..

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