We WON! WRTO: Governor’s Tourism Award for Innovation

2022 Governor’s Tourism Awards banner

Nominator name:  Robin Baumeister
Title and Organization: Program Coordinator, Boscobel Area Chamber of Commerce
Mailing address: P.O. Box 122 Boscobel, WI 53805
Phone number: 608-375-2672
Email address: chamber@boscobelwi.us

Name of nominee: Wisconsin River Trail Organization
Title and Organization: Non-Profit
Mailing address: 103 W. Prairie St., Boscobel, WI  53805
Phone number: 507-269-2606
Email address: DeniseFisher5995@gmail.com

Describe the project or business.

Wisconsin River Trail Organization (WRTO) is a group of common community members doing an uncommon thing. Formed in 2014, the WRTO Board had an idea to create a 20-mile hiking/biking trail in the Boscobel/Woodman/Wauzeka area.

When the concept of this trail was discussed with the City of Boscobel, full support was given, yet there was no funding for the ¾ mile Phase 1-trail available locally. A DNR Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant was written for $250,000 and delightfully awarded, with Boscobel’s city crew collaborating and completing the labor. The sense of disconnect from the Von Haden Boat Landing due to the inability to safely get to and from was solved, a problem all of the locals had been looking at their whole lives. (See www.wirivertrail.org for map and website)

Phase 2A travels from Boscobel’s westerly Borden Road to Cozy Acres Trailer Park, about 3 ½ miles from town. The members of this destitute trailer park, along with 3 other low-income housing units located on the trail, will be able to travel to and from town safely, as again, traffic travels at a high rate of speed and the roadside is unsafe.

WRTO requested $600,000 and was awarded a $1.32 million grant from the DOT TAPS funds in the Fall of 2020. Currently, the trail is spending 2022 completing engineering plans with construction to begin in late Fall or early Spring.

Phase 2B will continue from the trailer park into Woodman.

Phase 3 will begin in Wauzeka and roughly travel Hwy 60 along the north side of the Wisconsin River.

Phase 4, our biggest feat, will CROSS the river from Woodman to Wauzeka with a series of bridges where no road currently exists.

How is this project/business/destination unique to Wisconsin’s tourism industry?

Many years ago, there was a dream for the Wisconsin Dells. Although not the same thing, taking the thinking from “We can’t” to “Why can’t we?” has been evolving. Creating a bridge across the Wisconsin River where a turnpike still exists from barge traffic would be a one-of-a-kind hiking/biking destination located in the Driftless zone, where wildlife, hills, and valleys are unique and beautiful, undeveloped, pristine attractions for those that love the outdoors as we do. Boscobel, in preparation, finalized their CORP plan and rebranded the city as Wisconsin’s Outdoor Recreation Destination. Once this trail is finished, our rural area will boom with tourists, many from larger, urban communities that want to vacation and yet not have to afford city fees to come to relax and enjoy our piece of heaven.

No longer is our area a draw for large factories to come into town. Using the natural resources and environment to support the local community in a positive way will draw visitors, increase spending in our area, captivate families to come and/or stay in our area, and become a very unique place to hike, bike, ATV, UTV, canoe, kayak, boat, fish, hunt, and view wildlife.

What sets this project/business/destination apart? Why is it worthy of the Governor’s Tourism Award?

I cannot think of another project even remotely close to this one in the region, or anywhere else. How many common people see a million-dollar need and figure out how to fund it?

Secretary of the DOT’s Mark Gottlieb asked for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Phase 1 upon completion. While giving his speech, he stated that never had he been involved in a ribbon-cutting ceremony where money had been asked for. The community saw a need and made it happen. All our lives we have lived by the river that defines us, yet with such a sense of disconnect. And now, when newcomers drive across the bridge, they see a community with a purpose. The community boosts a 4000 canoeing/kayaking business and a 289-hiking hill preserve. Capturing the tourists that come into town and drawing them into the beauty, to stay a bit longer, will improve the lives of all that dwell here.

The WRTO is a board of common people doing an uncommon thing. They are nurses, insurance reps, teachers, and secretaries who alone, would never leave a significant inheritance to their families; but together, as mentors to the kids in the community and especially for the kids in the trailer park watching, they will leave a trail, a legacy trail, that will only be built upon.

When this trail is complete, there are plans to continue to reinvent our community by taking old feed buildings and creating a hub for the tourists and locals together by creating a hostel, brewpub, gift shop to rent recreational supplies, theatre, indoor farmer’s market, and meeting area for all to socialize and grow.

When we grow up, we have mentors besides our parents. Our mentors are the parents of our friends or local community leaders that may never know that we were watching. It’s our turn to be those mentors, to improve the lives of the kids and generations that follow us.

Please include any additional information that you would like to be considered.

UW-Platteville Engineering students have been involved in the beginning phases of all of the phases. The energy and collaboration between these students, the city of Boscobel, villages of Woodman and Wauzeka, Grant and Crawford Counties, DOT, DNR, Corp of Engineers, and Department of Tourism have been wonderful to work with and see us coming.

WRTO not only works on creating trails.

Their fundraisers include fun family and adult events, like bike safety for the kids every year, Easter egg hunts, Trek the Trail, Music in the Park X 2 every summer, 3rd of July Welcome Home Chicken BBQ (to welcome those coming home), The Taste of Boscobel, and a $40,000 banquet yearly. A group of 5 community members volunteer to make this trail a reality. The elementary students donated their student council money to assist in creating this trail because they see the merit. We sure hope you do too.

Love Grows Here!

Boscobel Elementary School
200 Buchanan Street
Boscobel, WI

March 18, 2015

To whom it may concern:

We are students at Boscobel Elementary who have been elected to the school’s student council.  The Boscobel Elementary Student Council is made up of students in third through sixth grade. In January we voted to donate $200 of our funds to the Wisconsin River Trail Organization.  We know that this is just a small amount of the money needed to create the biking/hiking trail that the committee is planning.

One of the main reasons we think this trail would be great for Boscobel is that it would provide something for adults and kids in our town to do.  Biking and walking are activities that people of all ages can do.  The trail could also be used for skateboarding, rollerblading, and running.  These activities also can help you exercise and stay fit.  It is nice to have new activities available.  Many times people from Boscobel drive to other towns for fun.  This new trail would provide fun things to do right in our town!

A lot of people, including kids, in Boscobel, like to fish.  Our school even offers a fishing summer school course every June for two weeks.  The trail would give them easier and safer access to the water.  We have seen kids riding their bikes and balancing their fishing poles as they ride to the Wisconsin River.  This trail would be much safer than riding your bike on Highway 61.

Our school could offer a new summer school class on exercise and fitness.  The students could ride bikes or run on the trail.  If there were exercise stations along the way, like chin-ups, balance beams, and push-up bars, people could stop and do some other fitness activities. This trail could be used for physical education classes at our school too.

School classes could pick up trash along this new trail as part of Earth Day clean-up and on other days.  Placing garbage cans and recycling bins along the path would encourage everyone to keep the trail clean.

We also think the trail would bring tourists and other people to our community.  When visitors come to our houses, the trail is something fun they could use while visiting.  We live in a small town on the beautiful Wisconsin River.  People admire it when they drive by.  Eagles and other wildlife can be seen.  A trail would allow them to get a better view.  It would also be nice for the canoers and kayakers who visit our town.  Maybe someday benches could be placed along the trail so that people could watch the sunset over the river.

Once the trail is built there are many other things that could be added.  Picnic tables, camping sites with showers and fire pits, public bathrooms, a dog exercise area, music or entertainment areas, and ice cream carts offering treats would be grand.  Miniature golf, laser tag, an arcade, and roller skating would be other enjoyable activities for the people of Boscobel.

Please take these ideas and thoughts into consideration.  The people in our small town of Boscobel would really enjoy having a Wisconsin River Trail in our community.


The Boscobel Elementary Student Council

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