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River Trail between St. Germain and Eagle River top priority for Great Headwaters Trails

When complete, the River Trail will connect the east end of St. Germain to the west end of Eagle River via a paved trail mostly parallel to Highway 70.

It will be an expensive endeavor costing about a million dollars per mile. Plus, an additional million-plus for a bridge.

Great Headwaters Trails Executive Director Jeff Currie believes it’s worth it.

“People do walk and ride bikes along that Highway 70 corridor. It is an important connection whether you go the whole route or just visit neighbors or businesses along the way. So it’s not an unimportant thing to do just from the perspective by itself,” said Currie. “The fact that really extends Heart of Vilas, makes it a 65-mile system, brings the county seat into the system, brings one of the major municipalities into the system really makes the whole thing worthwhile.”

Great Headwaters Trails would raise the funds to build the trail as it did for the Conover-Phelps Trail.

Currie says they’re hoping to get a federal grant that would help significantly.

Maintenance costs of the trail after its built would fall on the towns. Eagle River City Administrator Robin Ginner put together a report to try to assess the impact of the trail on city. You can view it here.

Safety is the biggest concern that the Town of Lincoln stated in its letterstating it wanted no part of this project.

Currie says the whole point of a trail like this is to get hikers and bikers off the road and onto a safer path.

“It’s designed to meet all standards of the Heart of Vilas System in every single way. Over 25 years, as far as I know, has a perfect record when it comes to any difficulty between motorists and traffic on roads and highways,” said Currie.

At a recent city council meeting, Eagle River council members voted to support the River Trail Commission as long as it doesn’t parallel Highway 70 as it comes into Eagle River as the trail plans currently call for.

Currie said that was confusing.

“So, at this point, Eagle River is saying they want to be part of a commission, but for a trail that doesn’t connect their city to St. Germain. That obviously has all sorts of question marks attached to it,” he said.

Currie and others on the trail commission are still working to make the trail a reality.

Right now, they’re working on securing funding and easements.

“River Trail is our priority project without a doubt. Definitely a project that’s going to happen step by step. But every step that it can advance is a step that we want to be ready to take.”

You can learn more about the River Trail plans on the Great Headwaters Trails website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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