Second rail line could impact Hixon Forest

BNSF Railway will be adding a second rail line through La Crosse.

A $4 million agreement between the city and BNSF Railway was made last month.

The added track is forcing Forest Hills Golf Course to rearrange its course and those changes are impacting the Hixon Forest.

Two holes on the course will need to be moved. It’s expected that those holes will be added in the back of the course, in the Hixon Forest, which could affect access to some trails in the forest.

More than 20 volunteers from the Outdoor Recreation Alliance of the 7 Rivers Region (ORA), all sharing the passion of cross-country skiing, don’t want to lose access to their favorite ski trails.

So they’re blazing a new trail.

“There’s a gas line right underneath (the new trail) and (Xcel Energy) maintains (it) for the gas line so we’re not actually making this trail,” ORA president Kurt Schroeder said.

With talk of clearing out part of the Lower Hixon Forest this winter and adding two holes for the golf course, ORA volunteers are worried they will lose their connection to the ski trails.

“The train tracks are probably going to be going in this winter and they’ll probably do the logging this winter as well so they can start working on the greens this summer, but we don’t know for sure when they’re going to start so we had to put this trail in. Once things freeze up we can’t go back and make a trail so we kind of had to do it really quickly,” ORA secretary Scott Cooper said.

The volunteers cut logs, trimmed branches and used rakes and axes to cut through the frozen ground and smooth out the trail Saturday.

After a few hours, the trail was clear of debris and almost ready for skiers.

“If we get another, probably, 4 to 8 inches of snow we could probably start skiing on it,” Cooper said.

The ORA said there is no official decision on the new layout of the golf course, but it wanted to do this work before the ground completely freezes over.

That way, if work does begin on the golf course this winter the trails are ready.

La Crosse officials said there is no official agreement in place yet, but BNSF has said it may begin work on the new rail line this month.