Data from the U.S. Census released this summer confirmed what we already knew; Dane County continues to grow at the fastest rate in the state. People are choosing to and want to live here. Our population increased 20% greater than it did in at least the past pair of ten-year census periods with over 73,000 new residents moving here to call our community home between 2010 and 2020. That jump represents 35% of the entire state’s growth. New single-family housing starts this year are up 25% over 2019 and 2020. For all cities, villages and towns, there have been 927 housing/duplex starts so far this year. That’s up from 823 in the same eight months of 2019. These numbers are indicative of the vibrancy and quality of life offered living here but they also require us to be continually mindful of how and where we grow so we don’t lose what attracts people and jobs to come here in the first place. This means placing continued priority on quality of life markers county government can influence: safe communities, conservation, parks, clean lakes and streams, and places for families to recreate and make memories.
Destination projects like our Lower Yahara River Trail linking Madison with communities south along the water will take important steps forward in the coming year. Thanks to funding included in my 2021 budget, we are finalizing plans and permits for Phase 2 of the Lower Yahara River Trail that will extend almost 2.5 miles from Fish Camp County Park through Lake Kegonsa State Park to Williams Drive near Stoughton. This section of trail will have trailhead access points and similar to the first phase of the trail completed between Lunney Lake Farm Park and McFarland, will have nearly a half mile of boardwalk through the Door Creek wetlands. This next exciting trail project will be put out to bid early next year with construction to follow. We will continue to connect new segments of this trail in the coming years, with the finished product serving as the perfect showcase of our lakes and region.
On the other end of the county we continue to make progress with the North Mendota Trail, providing safer cycling along the Highway M corridor between Middleton and Waunakee. Dane County is partnering with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on planning and development for a segment of the trail running thru Governor Nelson State Park from North Shore Bay Drive to the existing bicycle/pedestrian underpass at Highway M. Construction on the latest section of this trail is slated to start soon and be completed by springtime. The City of Middleton has been working diligently to connect to the North Mendota Trail along Highway M at the city limits. Given the many benefits of connectivity, I’m including $1 million in this budget to support Middleton’s work to tie into trail.
There’s been discussion for years about the potential for a multi-use recreational bridge linking Dane and Sauk Counties over the Wisconsin River at Sauk City. This budget includes $2 million for our share of planning and preparation of construction documents for this vision to link the “Great Sauk Trail” with the Walking Iron Trail near Highway Y in our county, in turn making it possible to one day hop on a bicycle here and pedal all the way to Devils Lake State Park. This funding matches the dollars put forward by Sauk County in its county budget for the coming year. Partnering with our neighbors to the north will provide a recreational, scenic gateway over the Wisconsin River, our latest investment in eco-tourism and the kind of project that makes our county a destination. My 2022 budget also includes $650,000 to make improvements at Walking Iron County Park.
Our multi-work with the Cities of Madison and Fitchburg to prevent future washouts on the Capital City Trail at the Dunn’s Marsh Bicycle Roundabout will also come to fruition in the coming year. The trail has completely washed out causing unexpected closures twice in the last five years. The preferred alternative plan will redirect the majority of runoff through a clear span culvert under the center of the roundabout and eliminate future washouts. It will also provide for enhanced fish and other aquatic life passage through the waterway. Planning will wrap up this fall with final design and construction anticipated in 2022. This budget also includes another $750,000 for the multi-year rehabilitation of the Capital City Bike Trail.
Additionally, my budget for the Department of Land and Water Resources includes: