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Plans advancing for bike trail between Merrill and Wausau


A new bike trail planned between Merrill and Wausau received more funding from the River District Development Foundation of Merrill.

There’s long been interest in a bike trail connecting Merrill and Wausau.

It could bridge segments of state bike trails with a 14 mile path and create a continuous route.

This is Greg Hartwig, Vice President of the River District Development Foundation of Merrill.

“If we can somehow get from Wausau to Tomahawk, we have a five mile section in Merrill and if we can make these connections, you'll be able to go from Green Bay all the way up to Superior. Right now there, this is the missing link in this state bicycle trail,” said Hartwig.

A few weeks ago, the foundation donated $95,000 to help kickstart the project.

They’re in preliminary discussions with Wisconsin Public Service to use a 100 year old easement for a planned trolley car between Merrill and Wausau that never happened.

95% of the path is along the easement.

Organizers plan on contacting property owners to make up that remaining 5%.

For now, the River District Development Foundation is working on designing and engineering the path, as well as contacting landowners.

“This will be done in phases and we're probably 2026 would probably be that the goal for starting construction,” he said.

Engineering classes from UW Platteville are planning on working on the construction of the trail.

“I think students are getting excited about working on a real project, something that they can go to upon completion, that they can go and actually see or bike on or say that they had a part in this,” he said.

Hartwig believes the trail would be beneficial to Marathon and Lincoln Counties.

“I think Marathon County and Lincoln Counties both want more people to move into their area. We need workers for jobs we need. We need those people. We need more tourism in both counties. And this can only help people want to move when they can have outdoor recreation like this,” he said.

Soon, they’ll start fundraising for construction of the trail.

“It'll promote tourism, outdoor recreation, getting people off the highway and bike riders now they don't want to just take a five mile bike ride. They want to go 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 miles. So we do think there'll be a lot of interest,” said Hartwig.

Hartwig says he believes many different groups and individuals will be interested in funding the project.

You can keep up to date with trail developments by following theFriends of the River Bend Trail on FaceBook.

There will also be an informational meeting in Merrill and in Wausau in the next few months.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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