Momentum building for multi-use Great River Road trail

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By Ted Pennekamp


The proposed multi-use trail along the Great River Road (Highway 35) in Crawford and Vernon counties is making progress.

Mary Rae of the Vernon-Crawford Trail Task Force said Peter Fletcher of the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission (MRRPC) has been working with the Department of Transportation to obtain a planning grant regarding the trail.

“MRRPC has been wonderful,” said Rae in noting that the grant would involve funding for the assessment of resources in Crawford and Vernon counties for such a trail as well as an engineering assessment. Rae said the Mississippi River Parkway Commission is also getting involved in the proposed project.

A grant would be available by the end of 2019 but the Trail Task Force, the MRRPC and the Parkway Commission will start working on it in January of 2019. Rae estimated such a grant could be for approximately $50,000.

“We have support for the trail,” said Rae, who noted that all municipalities along the river have signed resolutions saying they would support it. The Crawford and Vernon county boards have signed such resolutions as well.

Rae said the next step will be to get the municipalities throughout both counties to sign resolutions supporting the trail.

Rae still holds out hope that the trail could be a pedestrian and a bicycling trail. However, she said, the DOT has been strongly emphasizing a bicycle only trail rather than multi-use. “I’m not quite ready to give up on a multi-use trail just yet,” she stated. 

“A trail like this has been talked about for a long time,” said Rae. “A trail would have such a great value and would help to display the river’s importance and history.” People should not need to have a car, a house or a boat to view or enjoy such an excellent resource.

Rae said people ride bicycles along Highway 35 in and near La Crosse on a trail created on the shoulder of the roadway, and that it has been safe. She said she would like to see something for families in Vernon and Crawford counties as well.

The proposed trail would go along Highway 35 but some parts of it would also go up into the bluff land and come back down again via roads that intersect with Highway 35.

The DOT would install the trail should the project eventually gain approval.

Other possible sources of support for the trail include people interested in the use of a trail, sporting and biking shops and possibly restaurants along the way. Hidden Valleys of Southwest Wisconsin, which promotes tourism in the region, has expressed their support, said Rae.

For more information about the proposed trail, interested persons can contact Mary Rae at (507) 358-6699 or at

“We need to keep the momentum up and to keep on pushing,” said Rae.

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