Slow roll around GL Sept. 27

CELEBRATING THE INSTALLATION of a trailhead and bike repair station for Lauree’s Trail are, from left, Larry Gundrum, Erik Taylor, Garrett Clark, Tom Beatty, Ethan Carter, Dennis Clark, Erik Olmen and Michael Taylor. submitted photo

by Joe Schulz

For the last three years, a parade of cyclists tested their stamina looping Big Green Lake in May.

The annual tradition is known as the “Green Lake 100.” However, like many other iconic community events this summer, this year’s event was canceled. 

The event would have served as a fund-raiser for Lauree’s Trail, a bike path connecting Ripon and Green Lake, which recently finished its first phase of construction. 

To fill the void left by the Green Lake 100 fund-raiser, Todd Sharp, a member of the Green Lake Greenways nonprofit group working to finish Lauree’s Trail, concocted an event to coincide with Harvest Fest. 

Hosted by the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and Green Lake Greenways, the Slow Roll — Loop the Lake event will feature a bike ride around Big Green Lake, departing from Town Square Tap Sunday, Sept. 27 at 9 a.m. 

“This isn’t a race and we’d like to see you go at your own pace so you can enjoy the ride,” Sharp said. “The ride is 24 miles and should be complete in about 2 hours so you can enjoy the rest of Harvest Fest.”

The 24-mile route will take cyclists clockwise around the lake, through the Tichora Conservancy, past Dodge Memorial County Park and Reilly’s Pub, through the Green Lake Conference Center and back into town.

Sharp is looking forward to going around the lake with a group of cyclists and hopes that the event being outside will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m looking forward to sharing the joys of riding around the lake and having more people participating and making the ride around the lake as safe as possible,” he said. 

In addition to the event, Sharp noted Greenways will have a booth at Harvest Fest, explaining Lauree’s Trail and asking for donations to complete the remaining two phases of construction.

 For the last few months, the “bookends” of Lauree’s Trail have been accessible to cyclists of all skill levels. However, as the name suggests, the bookends only encompass the Green Lake and Ripon ends of the trail, not the middle section or the connections into the two communities. 

The Green Lake bookend goes from Highway 49 to Forest Ridge Road, while the Ripon bookend goes from County Road PP to Sunnyside Road.

Further construction of the project has stalled due to a lack of funding as the second phase of construction, connecting the bookends, costs roughly $400,000, according to Howard Hansen, president of Green Lake Greenways.

He noted the organization’s ability to fund-raise has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as the group had to cancel fund-raising events such as the Green Lake 100.

In late June, Greenways received a grant from the Wisconsin DNR that would match financial contributions up to $240,000. 

Even with possible grant money, Hansen noted the organization needs to raise approximately $200,000 more, just to cover the costs of phase two.

“We’re hoping to start phase two next spring, but it depends on what comes through for funds,” Hansen said.

Even so, progress has been made this summer as a trailhead has been constructed behind Town Square, with the help of Green Lake Boy Scout Garrett Clark raising money for his Eagle Scout project. 

The trailhead features a bike repair station, a kiosk with bike trail maps and brochures, a bike rack and benches. 

BOY SCOUTS ERIK Olmen and Michael Taylor, left, and Garrett Clark, right, work to install a bike repair station at the Lauree’s Trail trailhead. Joe Schulz photo

“I feel it came together very well — it ties the theme of town renewal to Town Square and the Mill Pond Terrace,” Clark said of the trailhead project. “It will also benefit the local businesses when people come into town to start their bike ride.”

While the trailhead at Town Square is a welcome addition, Hansen noted even after construction is completed on phase two, more will need to be done to finance and finish Lauree’s Trail.

He explained that the third phase of construction will consist of getting the trail into Green Lake and into Ripon, and will not be aided by the DNR grant like phase two.

“We would have to apply for a totally separate grant, or rely on private donations for that,” Hansen said. “By the time we finish phase three, we’re probably going to be right around that $1.5 million total cost range for the trail.”

Hansen hopes the Slow Roll fund-raising event gives Greenways the financial boost it needs to complete the project, noting the progress made so far is a testament to the community.

“It’s like I’ve always said about the Midwest, ‘We take care of our own,’” he said. 

Sharp, an avid biker, is looking forward to the event, but he’s also anxiously awaiting the completion of Lauree’s Trail.

He believes it’s important the trail get completed for families to safely navigate between municipalities. 

“It gives us a nice recreational trail between cities,” Sharp said of the project. “It helps connect communities together.”