Whether you like it or not, the Waukesha County Parks Department is moving forward with a $3.6 million project to pave the Bugline Trail by 2014.
County Supervisors say paving the Bugline has been a project on the books for over a decade, and after receiving state and federal funding, there’s no better time to get it done. However, many residents who utilize the trail just don’t see the point in spending money on a project that they feel isn’t necessary.
The 16-mile trail is a relatively straight shot atop an abandoned rail bed through Menomonee Falls, Lannon, Sussex, Lisbon and the North Lake area of the Town of Merton. A two-phase plan calls for a 10-foot wide asphalt paved surface to replace the existing 8-foot-wide crushed limestone surface.
“We’re pretty much set on the process of getting this done. We’re trying to work with people, but this is happening,” said Waukesha County Parks Manager Duane Grimm. “There are certain groups out there trying to make it stop, but we’re in the process to do this work.”
The county recently contracted with a consultant to design the layout of the trail, and that will be the major focus work on the trail in 2012. In 2013, the county will complete phase one of the project, which is the trail section from highway 164 to Lake 5 Road. Grimm expects the second phase to be completed by 2014.
The County Board’s Finance Committee recently approved $120,000 for the designing and planning portion of the paving project.
Waukesha County tax revenue will account for $1.5 million of the total paving project. The remaining $2.116 million came from a combination of state stewardship grants, regional transportation authority grants and federal transportation money.
A solution to a nonexistent problem?
Residents across the state and country are attempting to stretch their personal dollars and budget wisely in a recessionary economy, but more and more they are also asking their governments to do so as well. For some, paving the trail seems like an unnecessary expense.
“We use it for biking and horseback riding,” said Tammy Buth. “Paving is a waste of money and not needed.”
One Falls resident, Keith Blodorn, said the trail’s identity is synonymous with its limestone gravel path, and that would be lost with a paved trail. He contended that there isn’t much to gain by paving the trial either.
“I find it to be one of those projects that is funding a solution where a problem doesn’t exist,” Hutton said.
“Use the money to develop new recreation facilities. The Bugline is ideal as crushed limestone trail,” Blodorn said. “The shade and feel of the Bugline is perfect as it is. Paving would not add to the value, and would not increase the recreational opportunities available in town.”
County Supervisor Robert Hutton, a Sussex resident, agrees with residents’ opposition to the project. Sutton was one of two supervisors to vote against the project from the start. He claims the project is a solution to problem that doesn’t exist.
“I find it to be one of those projects that is funding a solution where a problem doesn’t exist,” Hutton said. “We’re not prioritizing these funds, and as a tax payer, you have to look and see government is broke, and we have significant other priorities before paving a trail nobody wants paved.”
Despite the opposition to the project, other supervisors who supported the project said it was the perfect time to complete a project long on the books, and expand the trail’s accessibility to the parents with strollers and the handicapped. Falls resident and County Supervisor Janelle Brandgen said without the state and federal funding currently available, this decade-old project would never be completed.
“The amount of participation almost doubles on the other paths that we’ve paved throughout the county,” Jeskewitz said.
“It’s a tough consideration in these economic times, but I don’t think we could complete this project with federal dollars,” Brandgen said. “It was a good opportunity.”
County Supervisor Jim Jeskewitz said the decision to move forward with the paving project was based on usage. Jeskewitz said there have been other paths paved around the county, and usage nearly doubles after than occurs.
“The amount of participation almost doubles on the other paths that we’ve paved throughout the county,” Jeskewitz said. “Mothers can push buggies and people can roller blade.”
Janel Husslein of Falls supports the paving of the trail. However, she still contends that it may not be the economical thing to do at this point.
“I'm not sure if it's the fiscally responsible thing to do right now, but I definitely wouldn't mind seeing it paved,” Husslein said. “I often run and bike on the trail. It would be great to have it paved to make it friendlier for a jogging stroller and kids on bikes.”
The county plans to hold a couple public meetings on the paving project. However, those dates are not yet set. Stay tuned to Patch for information on those meetings once the dates are finalized.