Conover-Phelps Trails Moving Forward

Conover Approves Trails Contract

Building the Conover-Phelps Biking and Walking Trail will get started this summer following the Conover Town Board’s May 7 decision to award the contract for constructing the trail’s first section to Pitlik & Wick.

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The 3.2 miles of trail will begin in Conover’s Community Park, proceed north of Cty K to Town Road, go through the small park south of Pioneer Creek and cross Hwy 45 to the old Chicago & North Western Railroad grade, now owned by the DOT. It follows the grade south to the north side of Cty. K, and north to where a spur crosses Hwy 45 to head east toward Phelps. That spur, once owned by the C.M. Christiansen Lumber Co., is now owned by Vilas County. The section to be built this summer will end where the grade meets Muskrat Creek Rd, about a quarter mile north of Cty K.

Wisconsin RiverThe new trail includes three water crossings and all of the trail on railroad grade will become part of the area’s state-funded snowmobile trail system in winter. The crossings, two bridges and one double culvert, account for a quarter of the project’s total cost since they need to carry a 20,000 lb. load to accommodate snowmobile groomers.

Trail construction costs will be covered by three sources: $611,500 secured in 2010 through the federal Bicycle-Pedestrian Facilities Program, $144,000 of DNR Snowmobile Program funds that the county has obtained, and over $100,000 of funds donated to Great Headwaters Trails (GHT), a 501(c)(3) organization, by private individuals who support building bike trails to connect the towns in eastern Vilas County.

Maintenance costs will be minimized by the choice of Trail Bond for the trail surface. Trail Bond, is a local product recommended to the board by GHT. It is a granite blend of crushed rock and fines that has shown great durability in use south of Eagle River on a stretch of the Three Eagle Trail and on a mile-long loop around the Rearing Pond off Hwy W in Presque Isle. The Presque Isle loop is used by motor vehicles, walkers and bike riders, and part of it is a snowmobile trail in winter. Town foreman Jay Gascoigne says he’s very satisfied with Trail Bond since the trail has needed minimal maintenance over the three years since it was built. “This summer the Conover-Phelps Trail starts to become a reality and construction costs of that first section are fully covered. With the water crossings and a stretch of railroad grade to restore in a wetlands area this section is the most expensive and difficult-to-build part of the whole 11 mile trail,” said GHT president Jeff Currie.

Most of the remaining 7.5 miles of the trail is fully designed and shovel ready. Grants from the Green Bay Packers Foundation, the DNR and We Energies, along with private donations have already provided $280,000 for that remaining stretch.

Additional funds have come in from the DNR this spring: $41,000 of Stewardship funds awarded to Phelps in February, and an additional $21,400 awarded in March.

GHT also submitted a grant application late last month seeking an additional $55,000 of Stewardship Funds. The towns of Phelps and Conover, and the county Forestry Committee provided letters supporting that application.

In addition to budgeting funds for trail construction, Great Headwaters Trails has established a fund to help support long term maintenance and enhancement fund for the trails it helps towns develop.

Those who want to add their support to completing the Conover – Phelps Trail can get information about donating by check, credit card or stock donation at They can also contact Brian Blank, treasurer of the Conover-Phelps Trail Capital Campaign Committee at 715-545-2142,

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