Blufflands Plan aims to preserve, enhance regional bluffs

Plan includes trail from southern La Crosse to Onalaska

Bluffs in the La Crosse region are one of the area’s main selling points, and regional groups want to make sure they’re not neglected.

The La Crosse Area Planning Committee, working with a variety of communities and organizations in the area, are releasing their “Blufflands Plan” they say will preserve and enhance the surrounding bluffs.

Carol Abrahamzon, executive director of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy partnering with the initiative, said it’s a plan that’s been talked about for decades, but recently a hired consultant helped bring groups together.

Abrahamzon said the “Driftless Area” around La Crosse where glaciers didn’t flatten the land out is unique.

“Once the bluffs are developed, they’re never going to be undeveloped,” she said. “I know everybody in this area really cherishes them. It’s a really unique part of Wisconsin and Minnesota as well, and we don’t want to see the development on the bluffs where houses are built or trees are cut down.”

Along with acquiring bluff land and preserving nature in the area, Regional Bluffland Planning Group committee member Ralph Heath said the plan aims to improve recreational opportunities.

“There are no boundaries when it comes to recreation,” he said. “People want to play across areas and enjoy themselves. They don’t think about, ‘Am I in La Crosse? Am I in Onalaska, (or) Shelby?’ So all these municipalities understand that, and they’re working together to provide a seamless experience.”

The plan streamlines signage across regional trails, and its centerpiece is a new uninterrupted route all the way from the south end of La Crosse to Onalaska, and then eventually to north of Holmen.

“There just isn’t that kind of experience right now,” said Heath. “It’s the type of thing, especially with the trails and that experience, that will attract people from outside the area. It will make it a destination place.”

Planners say even though it took two decades, having a plan to keep the bluffs in top shape is worth it.

“The good news is it’s here and it’s happening now, and it should all be good,” he said.

The LAPC held a public meeting Thursday night to discuss the plan and possible funding options.