2023 Bayfield Area Trails Forum
Sponsored by the Bayfield Area Trails Committee
We’re Buying a Bridge!
“We were overwhelmed by the response to our plea for financial support for this project,” said Kate Kitchell, BATs Committee Chair. “Thanks to the incredible generosity of our community, we were able to raise the funds to proceed in record time. We are especially grateful for a very generous gift from Jim Bryan and Dee Johnson who donated more than half of the cost of the bridge.
The balance of funds for the bridge, boardwalk, and final trail work is available thanks to forty donors who contributed over $13,000 and $6,000 committed by the Town of Bayfield.
Other trail work will begin after the snow melt when Will Krift of Trails Anonymous will return to do "touch up" and drainage work on the trail built last fall. Following bridge installation, BATs volunteers will build about 150 feet of boardwalk across the floodplain to connect the new bridge with the trail built last fall. The final touches will include directional signage with maps, plus interpretive signs designed by BATs Communications team member Neil Howk.
Thanks also to project subcommittee members Bob Feyen, Carol Fahrenkrog, Karen Boutin and Dennis Clark.
“Later this summer we’ll have a dedication to wrap it all up and tie it in a bow!” Kate said. Please check the BATs website in the coming months for information about volunteering on the project and the dedication!
Here is a list of the people who generously donated to the funding of this project:
Will Krift of Trails Anonymous provided his expertise, volunteer supervision, and operation of a mini excavator to ensure a final product everyone can all be proud of.
“Working with Will is always great. He is a talented trail builder who knows how to make hard work fun,” said trail volunteer Gene “The Machine” Lemmenes.
“This has been the most complex project undertaken by Bayfield Area Trails to date due to the trail length, the relative inaccessibility of the route, and transporting equipment and materials,” observed John Ipsen, BATs Trails Subcommittee member and dedicated volunteer. “Xcel Energy has been great to work with, allowing us to use the power line road to access the trail,” he added. “That access greatly reduced the amount of time spent by volunteers to get to the trail.”
Building a Bridge Slideshow
In advance of building the trail tread, Ted May, Peter Rothe, and Kate Kitchell used chainsaws, loppers, and muscle to clear the trail corridor. While Will and volunteers built the trail tread, Sean Reagan led the construction of a small bridge to protect a drainage on top of the plateau as well as facilitate emergency access. He also mowed between the power line and the Jolly Long Trail to make the final trail connection.
Altogether, 34 volunteers contributed over 320 hours working on the new trail, flagging the trail corridor, cutting trees and small shrubs, removing stumps, hauling and dispersing trail vegetation, and raking a smooth four-foot-wide tread. After the snow melts next spring, follow-up work will address drainage and other residual needs to create a finished trail.
In 2022, BATs received $21,150 from donations and grants to kick off the project. This recent trail-building cost a little over $11,000, leaving funding available to put toward the cost of constructing a substantial steel or fiberglass reinforced plastic bridge to cross Pikes Creek that will withstand the periodic high-water events that can flash through the riparian corridor. To achieve this second phase of the trail in the summer of 2023, BATs will continue fundraising for the bridge, expected to cost as much as $55,000.
For now, the trail is best accessed via the Jolly Long trail at Mt. Ashwabay. The creek crossing bridge from the Hatchery trail is not in place yet. Stay tuned for opportunities to help with this next important phase of construction.
Jemma and Julien Johnson recently greeted Carol Fahrenkrog, Town of Bayfield representative on the Bayfield Area Trails Committee, and Kate Kitchell, BATs Committee chair, at the Gil Larsen Trailhead in Bayfield with a gift of $3,000 to Bayfield Area Trails! The funds represent the proceeds from this year’s Jared Johnson Cribbage Classic, an event held at Bayfield’s Lakeside Pavilion in honor of Jemma and Julien’s father, Jared. The tournament is sponsored by Jared’s friends.
“Jared loved cribbage,” said Anna Johnson, Jemma and Julien’s mom. “Nick Wszalek, a life-long friend of Jared’s, started the tournament in 2021 with cribbage boards made and donated by Dale Ripp. Joey Ann Meyers contributed graphic design work, and Genny and Tim Hay and other friends helped out with the organization. Many local businesses sponsor cribbage boards, and contribute items for the raffle as well as food and drink. They want to honor Jared’s memory by gathering friends, family and community to play cribbage with the goal of raising funds to support organizations and initiatives that benefit kids and families who live here.”
Looking up the Big Ravine to the Iron Bridge, Anna said, “The Johnsons lived close to the Big Ravine and Jared spent some of his best days playing here when he was a kid. When he had the chance to walk the new Big Ravine trails in the fall of 2020, he was so happy about how they made this special place more accessible for people, especially kids. We’re glad to be able to support that work.”
Carol voiced her enthusiasm for the trails; “I’m excited that the Bayfield Area Trails Committee will have a chance to put this gift toward top priorities, including the new trail connection between the State Fish Hatchery and the Mt. Ashwabay Trails that is being sponsored by the Town of Bayfield,”
With a grateful smile on her face, Kate said “How wonderful that Jared loved these trails—and that we’re able to work on them in his honor for others to enjoy. We are truly touched by this gift. Many thanks to Jemma and Julien, their mom, Jared’s other family members, and many friends for this generous support of Bayfield Area Trails.”
Gil Larsen Trail Boardwalk Replacement
They also worked on the frame for the new boardwalk, and would later install new decking. Work started on the project earlier in the week when the crew tore out the old boardwalk.
“The old boardwalk was forty-plus years old and starting to show its age -- built on posts on a shelf above the creek. Plus, it was recently damaged by a tree that fell across it in September,” explained City of Bayfield Parks and Recreation Committee chair Kate Kitchell. “With more and more people using the Gil Larsen—many with children, the Committee determined that it would be wise to stabilize the structure as well as add railing. It’s a much nicer viewing area for the waterfalls, and easier for people to take pictures.”
“There we go!” whooped volunteer Gene Lemmenes, lowering his sledgehammer after driving a piece of rebar through the boardwalk frame. “It’s amazing we haven’t hit any rock. Look at it! Loose rocks up there, loose rocks everywhere; you’d think there would be bedrock.”
“It’s a hybrid between a crib wall and a boardwalk,” Will explained. “The crib will help prevent future erosion and keep the hillside in place. And because we’re replacing the boardwalk, it won’t really change the look.” Will has been busy during the trail-building season working on projects all the way from the Cable area up the Iron Range. Kate calls him, “A project leader extraordinaire!”
Will thought the project was going smoothly and was especially grateful to the Coast Guard for carrying the six-by-six beams and other materials down the Sweeny Switchback and across the stream to a more accessible staging area.
The completed boardwalk. Click images to enlarge.
The new boardwalk was funded by the City of Bayfield over two fiscal years. Many thanks to volunteers Bill Bland, Kate Kitchell, Gene Lemmenes, Scott Nesvold, Keith Ray, and Pete Rothe, who helped with the project.
About the Adopt-A-Trail Program
Based upon the lessons learned in 2022, Bayfield Area Trails will expand the Adopt-a-Trail program in 2023. Keep your eyes peeled to sign up next spring.
An enthusiastic group of Northland College students recently spent a day doing service work on the new Pikes Creek Trail as part of their August Welcome Experience to the Chequamegon Bay area.
The recent work was done on the half-mile long “B” segment of the Pikes Creek Trail. The “C” segment starts at the Fish Hatchery, and the “A” segment connects to the Jolly Loop.
The students were from all over including Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, central and southern Wisconsin, and the Twin Cities area. Several students planned to major in outdoor education; others were studying biology and natural resources. Welcome, all, to the Chequamegon Bay Area! And thanks for your work on the Bayfield Area Trails!
Thanks to sponsorship from the Town of Bayfield and approval from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Bayfield Area Trails is moving forward with the development of the new “Pikes Creek to Ashwabay Trail” that will connect from the Les Voigt Fish Hatchery on Highway 13 south of Bayfield to the Jolly Long Loop of the Mt. Ashwabay trails network.
The trail is designed for foot and snowshoe use; because of the special protections in the DNR’s Pikes Creek Management Area, no motorized or bicycle use will be allowed.
Steve Vizanko of Bayfield Nordic sees this as a positive addition to the area’s trails. “Adding this as a snowshoe trail will create a great opportunity, as well as alleviate some existing conflicts between snowshoers and nordic skiers. Plus, the views from the plateau in winter time will be fantastic.”
Work was launched on August 30 – 31. We will soon reach out via email to recruit and schedule volunteers to work on Segment C. If you are not on the BATs email list and you are interested in volunteering, please sign up here.
The Bayfield Area Trails Committee is also especially grateful for the support from the Town of Bayfield Board, Clerk and Treasurer; without them, this project would not have been possible.
"Hikers will enjoy walking the nice loop along the trail, climbing to a forest overlook point and strolling along Pikes Creek,” said volunteer crew leader Mike Kinnee who helped organize area citizens to make needed improvements throughout the loop trail. “There’s a lot of interesting ferns and unique flora out there. We found some beautiful lady slippers out there last spring,” he added.
The original trail was made possible in 2006 by Jerry Jolly, who lived nearby. He donated 72 acres of the land here, containing the creek, meadows, and forests to Bayfield County with the desire that it be open to people for recreation. While Mr. Jolly has since passed, his legacy gift continues to provide great enjoyment to all who recreate here. It is particularly beautiful in the autumn when one can walk along Pikes Creek reflecting the colors of the fall leaves or from the hilltop overlook gazing through the colorful forest to the creek below.
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