Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Executive Parisi Announces Land Purchases For Lower Yahara River Trail, North Mendota Trail and Sugar River

February 15, 2018
County Executive

Land Acquisitions Will Increase Trail Connections and River Access to the Public


Today Dane County Executive Parisi announced the acquisition of three properties including land to expand the Lower Yahara River Trail, the North Mendota Trail and increased access to Sugar River.  The Dane County Board is set to approve all three acquisitions tonight at their board meeting. The county is expected to close on all three properties this spring.


“These property’s will be enjoyed by our community for generations to come,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “The Lower Yahara River Trail and the North Mendota Bike Trail are incredibly popular projects that will enhance the quality of life in Dane County. Increasing access to the Sugar River will help allow more outdoor recreation activities.”


Lower Yahara River Trail

Dane County will purchase 160 acres of land in the Door Creek Wildlife Area for the future expansion of the Lower Yahara River Trail. The 160 acre property includes frontage on the northern edge of Lake Kegonsa as well as Door Creek. The land will be purchased for $232,200. The properties are within the County’s Door Creek Wildlife Area boundary and are adjacent to other County-owned lands. The area will be open to fishing, hiking and skiing.


In 2017 the first phase of the long-awaited Lower Yahara River Trail was completed. The nearly 2.5-mile stretch of pathway is one of the most significant trail projects Dane County has ever embarked upon and features the longest multi-use boardwalk in the state of Wisconsin. With the trail complete, visitors can now catch picturesque views of Lake Waubesa while traveling between Lake Farm County Park, near the Capital City Bike Trail, and McDaniel Park in the Village of McFarland.


The Lower Yahara River Trail runs alongside a railroad trestle with a mile of continuous bridges and boardwalks on the north shore of Lake Waubesa. An accessible fishing pier and two overlooks have also been built to heighten visitors’ overall experience. Given the trail’s unique features and connection to the Capital City Bike Trail, it is projected that the Lower Yahara River Trail will see around 150,000 visitors a year. In total, the Lower Yahara River Trail project cost $8 million.


In his 2017 budget Dane County Executive Parisi included $305,000 to start planning future trail segments that will ultimately connect south to Viking County Park near the City of Stoughton. When completed, the Lower Yahara River Trail will be approximately 11 miles long. Dollars to pay for the design of the second segment of the trail were included in Parisi’s 2017 budget. The County anticipates that the next phase of the project to be designed will run from Fish Camp County Park to Lake Kegonsa State Park and will include these properties.



North Mendota Trail

Dane County will purchase a 3.5 acre property in the Town of Westport for the much anticipated North Mendota Trail. Dane County, along with the Town of Westport, Village of Waunakee and City of Middleton have been working to complete various segments of the North Mendota Trail, which will eventually have links to Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Mendota County Park, Schumacher Farm County Park and Governor Nelson State Park.


The multi-use conservation and trail easement is over 3.5 acres of a larger 40-acre parcel in the Town of Westport.  The easement will result in a nearly ¼ mile stretch of trail connecting directly to Governor Nelson State Park via an existing underpass at County Highway M.  Located in an area of intense development, this purchase will secure a crucial trail corridor linkage along County Highway M. The land will be purchased for $100,000.


Parisi’s 2018 budget included $750,000 – the county’s largest allocation to date – to kick-start development of the North Mendota Trail. The money in the budget was allocated toward construction of a 1.5 mile stretch of the North Mendota Trail, crossing Highway M and Six Mile Creek and heading into Governor Nelson State Park, in addition to this acquisition.


Sugar River

Dane County will purchase a 60 acre parcel in the Town of Montrose that contains a meandering stretch of the West Branch of the Sugar River and a public hunting easement of an additional 110 acres. The new land will have a new fishing easement along the Sugar River to make it easier for trout fishing in the popular fishery. The land will be purchased for $636,000. The purpose of the purchase and easements is to provide permanent public fishing and hunting access, protect water quality and preserve fish and wildlife habitat.


In 2015 Dane County acquired more than 100 acres south of Paoli, a property that includes over 4,800 feet of frontage on the Sugar River and is known as the Sugar River Basco Unit Wildlife Area. This is after the County's historic acquisition that forever protected more than 450 acres and several miles of the Sugar River just north of Paoli. That property, now named the "Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area," has since had parking areas developed to improve outdoor recreation and access to the river for fishing, kayaking and canoeing.


The County added new hiking trails and bridges which opened in 2017 at the Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area. In County Executive Parisi’s 2018 budget he allocated $75,000 for a multi-year restoration of the Sugar River to improve the health of the fishery and ease of navigation. He also added a new Restoration Crew, modeled after state counterparts at the Wisconsin DNR. These teams will be trained in restoring waterways and help accelerate the conversion of natural spaces.