NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 2,635 days

See This Full Issue

All Previous Archived Issues


May 26, 2015

Elroy-Sparta State Trail first rail to trail in the nation

MADISON - National Trails Day is June 6 and it will have special significance in Wisconsin with a 50th anniversary celebration of rail trails in the state. Wisconsin became the first state to convert an abandoned railroad corridor into a recreational trail--the Elroy-Sparta State Trail--in 1965. The "rails to trails" movement has since spread across the state, nation and the world.

The celebration will commence with a free shuttle tour through Tunnel 1 and a series of rides beginning at five different communities along the trail: Sparta, Norwalk, Wilton, Kendall and Elroy. The rides are composed of 50 people each and advanced registration is required. Each rider will receive a free commemorative 50th Anniversary t-shirt, with different neon colors for each community. All 250 riders will then ride together from Tunnel 1 to Kendall in full force, arriving before an official 50th Anniversary Ceremony begins at 2 p.m. at the historic Kendall Depot, which is the Elroy-Sparta State Trail headquarters.

People can find out more about the rides and register through the event website (exit DNR).

Guest speakers at the ceremony will include Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede, Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, an Elroy native, and local elected officials. The ceremony will conclude with a rededication ribbon cutting for the trail.

National Trails Day is also the first day of Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin, when trail passes, park and forest admission stickers, fishing licenses and out-of-state ATV passes are waived for the weekend. The celebration in Kendall is being coordinated by the Friends of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail 50th Anniversary Ride Committee, the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, the Sparta Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin State Parks program. Food and refreshments will also be available from local service clubs.

"We are encouraging rail trails across Wisconsin to join in the celebration with their own events any time in 2015. We're very proud of our State Trails, but there are other rail trail providers in Wisconsin and we'd love for them to join in the fun of celebrating 50 years," says Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator for the DNR Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

Other trail events being held on June 6 include:

Since the establishment of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in 1965, Wisconsin has developed an additional 40 state trails (36 of them rail trails) extending more than 2,000 miles. Nationwide there are more than 1,900 rail trails spanning more than 22,000 miles, according to the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Trails can have a significant economic impact for local communities, with a recent DNR and University of Wisconsin study finding that, on average, individual trip spending of visitors to state trails was more than $90 per day.

People interested in participating can keep abreast of activities by searching the DNR website for keywords "rail trails." Groups interested in organizing events on National Trails Day or throughout the year as part of the 50th anniversary of rail trails in Wisconsin are encouraged to contact Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator, at 608-266-2183 or

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator, 608-266-2183 or Paul Holtan, DNR parks, forests and recreation public affairs manager, 608-267-7517

Last Revised: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Need an expert?

The Office of Communications connects journalists with DNR experts on a wide range of topics. For the fastest response, please email and the first available Communications Specialist will respond to you.