Gov. Tony Evers Wednesday vetoed $100,000 appropriated by the Legislature to repair portions of the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail and 400 State Trail.
The Legislature included the earmarked funds in the state budget it sent to Evers last week.
Flooding from 2018 summer storms caused significant damage to both trails.
Evers stated in his veto message that he objects to directing funds to specific trails.
“The flooding of 2018 caused damage throughout the state trails system, not just these two trails,” he said. “This veto would allow the department to prioritize repairs based on the best interests of the state and all trail users.”
John Hendricks, executive director of the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce, said he’s disappointed the funds were vetoed.
“There’s significant damage. Some of it’s been (repaired), but it still requires significant repairs, and a major portion is still closed,” he said. “Sparta and many of the communities, if not all the communities around the bike trail, depend heavily on bicycle tourism for income.”
Hendricks said he’s unsure how much of the repair work is dependent upon the state budget, federal funds and other Department of Natural Resources funding sources, but is hopeful the DNR continues repairing the trail despite the veto of directed funds.
“It sounds like it ... would be a DNR decision rather than something that’s written in the state budget, and I’m still hopeful the DNR will see that this is one of the most popular bike trails in Wisconsin, if not the United States, and will make it a priority,” he said.
Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah, said she is disappointed the governor chose to veto the funding. She said “$100,000 is really not a huge amount of money in the greater scheme of an $83 billion budget.”
She said lawmakers should decide which trails get priority.
“I don’t think it should surprise anyone at this point that this governor trusts bureaucrats in Madison to make decisions that may adversely impact those of us that don’t live in the southern part of the state, but seeing it happen this close to home is discouraging,” VanderMeer said.
The trail closures are detrimental because tourism is a huge driver in the region, VanderMeer said.
She expressed concern that Evers’ veto will have the impact of “pushing individuals and families to other areas of our state and neighboring states for recreational opportunities.”
“People from all across the state and the country come every summer to enjoy the trails and our beautiful part of the state,” VanderMeer said. “The trails remaining closed not only will have an immediate impact, but will have longer term consequences.”