Madison and Dane County are preparing to spend $2 million to buy 40 acres of forest and farmland near University Ridge Golf Course to secure a critical segment for the Wisconsin Ice Age Trail and establish a nature park.
The city would deliver $1.5 million and the county $500,000 to buy property from Charles and Bonnie Dykman across the street from the golf course on Woods Road in the town of Verona.
The property is in an area with important glacial features and would allow a connection of the Ice Age Trail between a section inside the golf course to segments north and westward along the terminal moraine. About three-quarters of the land is old-growth hardwood forest populated primarily with oak and maple trees, and the rest is farmland.
“It’s a keystone to ensuring the trail is providing a connection from University Ridge to the north,” city Parks Division superintendent Eric Knepp said, adding that the site provides panoramic views of the terminal moraine. “Everybody agrees it’s the right place for it.”
The city, Knepp said, will work with the Ice Age Trail Alliance to make the main trail connection, and create “a very natural park” likely with walking and cross-country trails. “This is not a place we’d look to put ball fields and soccer fields,” he said.
County Executive Joe Parisi said, “Dane County is excited to add land to the beautiful Ice Age Trail. We have some of the best trails in the country and this will be another wonderful addition. We look forward to continuing to partner with local governments to enhance our residents’ access to nature.”
The Dykmans “definitely have an interest in it being conserved,” Knepp said.
Kevin Thusius, director of land conservation for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, said the property has been on the organization’s radar since the mid-1990s and is “incredibly important” for extending the trail west of the city. The alliance hopes to reach an agreement with the city so it can take responsibilities to construct and maintain the trail segment, he said.
Mayor Paul Soglin has introduced a resolution to spend $1.53 million in citywide parkland impact fees, with a City Council decision expected in September. A resolution to spend the $500,000 will be introduced to the County Board in August with a decision as soon as the following month.
The city is making a big investment in land that’s in the town of Verona because it partially borders the city, will be annexed at some point, and it made no sense to do protracted negotiations on benefits and cost responsibilities with a present opportunity to buy property that will benefit all at a good price, Knepp said.
“We had the opportunity with Dane County and the seller to acquire property for generations of Wisconsinites to enjoy,” he said. “It is too good to pass up.”
If the purchase is approved, the property is likely to be opened to the public sometime in 2019 with trails fully developed over the next couple of years, he said.