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Judge delays construction of contested Blue Mound snowmobile trail
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BLUE MOUND STATE PARK | PROPOSED SNOWMOBILE TRAIL

Judge delays construction of contested Blue Mound snowmobile trail

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Blue Mound State Park

Visitors explore a path at Blue Mound State Park Wednesday after an Iowa County judge granted a request to temporarily block construction of a new snowmobile route through the park. 

Snowmobilers will have to wait at least another year for a new route through Blue Mound State Park.

An Iowa County judge on Wednesday blocked construction of a long-contested trail outlined in a new master plan that is the subject of legal challenges from the park’s volunteer support group.

The Department of Natural Resources had planned to begin construction Nov. 5, but Judge Margaret Koehler granted a request from the Friends of Blue Mound State Park to pause construction until the lawsuits are settled.

A land conservancy organization has purchased about 70,000 acres of northern Wisconsin forestland in hopes of preserving it for public use and logging.

The dispute involves a new master plan for the 1,153-acre park on the Dane-Iowa county line.

Approved by the Natural Resources Board in May, the plan includes a 1-mile snowmobile trail through the park to connect the Military Ridge State Trail to county trails to the north. Currently, snowmobilers can ride on the shoulders of roads to get between trail systems.

Blue Mound State Park trail map

The Friends asked the court to review the plan, arguing the 12-foot-wide trail could damage ecologically important habitat and threaten the federally endangered rusty patched bumblebee, favoring a sport with waning popularity to the detriment of hikers, bikers and other users.

Koehler conceded the stay would likely mean snowmobilers will have to wait another season for the trail, which has been contested for the past five years. But she said a delay would cause the least damage as snowmobilers can continue using the existing trail.

“There’s no immediate urgency to construct this trail,” she said. “It’s been kicked around … since 2016.”

DNR spokesperson Sarah Hoye declined to comment, citing pending litigation, but an attorney for the state told the court Wednesday that the master plan has been through a lengthy administrative process and the Friends group has not proven any deficiencies.

“The public has been waiting for this trail,” said Assistant Attorney General Gabe Johnson-Karp.

Dave Newman, president of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs, also declined to comment on the order.

Attorney Brian Potts called the order a win for the Friends group.

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