Reopening set for Elroy-Sparta State Trail after four-year closure because of flood damage

Ribbon-cutting May 14 to celebrate new bridges, culverts, other repairs that cost more than $2.3 million
(TrailLink photo)

MADISON, Wis. (WKBT) – The Elroy-Sparta State Trail, which has been closed since 2018 because of severe flood damage, will reopen formally with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. May 14.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re so excited to have the Elroy-Sparta State Trail open again and more resilient to future storm events,” said Steve Schmelzer, parks director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“As the oldest rails to trail in the country, we needed to ensure the trail could sustain future generations of bikers, walkers, runners and snowmobilers,” Schmelzer said.

The flooding four years ago left a swath of destruction that required two total bridge replacements, three culvert replacements, four landslide repairs and a significant stream/trail embankment restoration, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR will host the reopening ceremony at the Kendall Depot at 111 White St. in Kendall, followed by a “first ride” and refreshments.

DNR staffers completed some initial repairs, and a donation from the Tunnel Trail Campground in Wilton allowed several sections of the trail to reopen.

The rest of the repairs were completed only recently, including work on 27 sites across 21 miles of the trail and one site on the adjacent 400 State Trail.

The $2.3 million needed to complete the repairs came from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the state.

The Elroy-Sparta Trail follows the old railroad corridor of the Chicago & North Western Railway. Established in the mid-1960s, the trail is 32.5 miles of crushed limestone spanning five communities in Monroe and Juneau counties, including Sparta, Wilton, Norwalk, Kendall and Elroy.

Its starting/end point in Sparta is at South Water Street and Milwaukee Street/La Crosse River State Trail, while in Elroy, it starts/ends at State Hwys. 82 and 71.

It was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1971 and now attracts as many as 60,000 visitors a year. It is open daily from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Those who attend the ribbon-cutting are urged to bring their bicycles. Participants are encouraged but not required to show a Wisconsin State Trail Pass for the event.

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