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The Getaway  | Fall 2020

Seeing a Path to Local Economic Recovery
In the Great Outdoors

With the world changing and Northwest Dane communities facing a challenging future, Gateway to The Driftless in 2020 focused on working with area governments and other stakeholders on multiple fronts in support of local economic recovery and sustainable development around our area's natural resources.

Gateway to The Driftless (GTTD), a nonprofit corporation launched in 2018 to promote the area’s abundant outdoor recreation and pursue related infrastructure projects in support of smart growth, this year continued to work with local governments and other community stakeholders toward development of the year-round, multi-purpose recreational trail taking shape in Dane and Sauk counties from Middleton to Reedsburg via Mazomanie and Devil's Lake State Park.

Since summer, GTTD has been partnered with the Great Sauk State Trail Commission, UW-Extension (UWEX) in Dane and Sauk counties, and Dane County Parks in developing an economic impact study of the 60-mile bike/ped/snowmobile trail envisioned as both a major enhancement to the area's quality of life and a world-class eco-tourism attraction that will be a major asset to local community development and downtown revitalization. A final report is due by the end of the year.
The economic impact study is a follow-up to the feasibility report co-funded by Sauk and Dane Counties and completed in December 2019 for a new $8 million Wisconsin River recreation bridge at Sauk City that will connect the Dane and Sauk portions of the regional trail. The study includes estimates of potential use based on demographics and historical data, drive-time market analysis, expenditure patterns of non-motorized and snowmobiling trail users, and development of a marketing scheme. Interviews with potentially affected local business owners and other stakeholders have also been conducted.

Members of the impact study project team are:
  • Jenny Erickson and Mindy Habecker, UWEX Educators
  • Matt Kures and Dave Marcouiller, state specialists with the University of Wisconsin - Madison and serve as Community Business Development Specialist and Resource Economist, respectively
  • Marty Krueger, Sauk County Supervisor and chairperson of the Great Sauk State Trail Commission
  • Christopher James, Senior Landscape Architect for Dane County Parks
  • Christopher Long, Executive Director of Gateway to The Driftless
  • Jared Pinkus, Sauk County Community Development Coordinator
The project team in August organized a virtual “field trip” for local government leaders to meet with representatives of the Root River (MN) State Trail communities and Minnesota DNR and discuss the history and economic benefit of that 30-year-old local-state project. A planned bus trip to Lanesboro, MN to tour the project was postponed due to the pandemic and will be rescheduled when conditions permit.
Sauk and Dane Counties are now sharing the cost of a geotechnical study of the river channel at the recreation bridge site needed for additional design and engineering of the 500-foot span. Work began this fall with the final report due in January 2021. Dane County is also planning an analysis of additional railroad bridge crossings in the Walking Iron Trail corridor envisioned from the river crossing to Mazomanie.

Building All-Weather Partnerships
For Sustainable Development

The historic floods of August 2018 caused catastrophic damage to parts of Wolf Run Trail at Mazomanie. GTTD partnered with Wolf Run Association (WRA) and coordinated restoration of the trail that fall with extensive repairs at the USH 14 viaduct by WisDOT. This summer, GTTD again served as project manager for WRA in construction of a 24 x 8 concrete box culvert at the midpoint of the trail intended to be a permanent solution to high-water damage to both the trail and the adjacent lower Black Earth Creek stream bank.

The culvert project was initiated under terms of WRA's long-term trail maintenance agreement with Groundswell Conservancy, WDNR, and Dane County Parks. The $100,000 total project cost was underwritten by WDNR, Dane County, and Wolf Run Association. Strand Engineering also was a project partner.
Supporting Smart Green Infrastructure
In the Black Earth Creek Watershed

The Capital Area Regional Planning Commission (CARPC) is heading up a Green Infrastructure Project to mitigate and minimize the effects of increased waterflow through the Black Earth Creek watershed due to storm water runoff and heavy rains. The project seeks to restore and preserve wetlands, maximize stormwater management, encourage agricultural best management practices, and study the effects of canopy cover and impervious areas within the watershed. GTTD serves on the project steering committee along with several state, county, and local municipal representatives as well as several non-profit outdoor groups such as Groundswell Conservancy and the Black Earth Creek Watershed Association (BECWA). In addition, the Army Corps of Engineers has requested grant funds to provide Hydrologic & Hydraulic Modeling of the watershed, led by Terry Zien, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - WI Silver Jackets team.

Working with Local Governments
To Build Strong Communities

GTTD is an active member of the Village of Black Earth Economic Development Committee and participated in the Village of  Mazomanie’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan Update process as part of an Economic Development focus group in September. To help coordinate local and regional economic development activities, GTTD this year expanded its board of directors to include permanent seats for our three partner villages. The three Village representatives on the GTTD Board currently are:
  • Bill Chang, Village of Cross Plains
  • Mary Scott, Village of Black Earth
  • Peter Huebner, Village of Mazomanie
We are looking for volunteer help with our website and social media. If you are interested in helping out with maintenance and updates, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at
Gateway to The Driftless is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community organization created to promote and enhance our area's outdoor recreation, natural resources, and rural heritage in support of economic development and sustainable growth. We are privately funded and supported by the villages of Mazomanie, Black Earth, and Cross Plains, Wisconsin Heights School District, local chambers of commerce, nonprofit and civic groups, and individual and business donors.

To learn more, or make a donation, visit us online at, by email at, or by mail at P.O. Box 425, Black Earth, WI 53515.

"We Promote to Protect"
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Gateway to The Driftless · PO Box 425 · Black Earth, WI 53515-0425 · USA

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