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Decision on Grandad Bluff trail civil suit postponed 2 weeks, hearing scheduled for June 5

Decision on Grandad Bluff trail civil suit postponed 2 weeks, hearing scheduled for June 5

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A judge postponed his decision Friday on a group’s last-ditch effort to stop the multi-use trail project below Grandad Bluff, now officially known as “The Gateway.”

Judge Todd Ziegler ordered the city of La Crosse to do everything in its power to stop construction on the trails until the next hearing, scheduled for June 5, while both parties gather evidence and fine-tune their arguments.

But the city stated that it didn’t have the power to stop the construction directly, which is slated to begin June 10, because the contract was between Outdoor Recreation Alliance and the trail crew.

The city instead has an ongoing memorandum of understanding with ORA for management of the blufflands, which officials indicated would be enough to pause the construction if the court needed longer to decide.

The group of petitioners, which include the Grandad Bluff Coalition and various concerned citizens, filed the lawsuit on May 15 seeking a temporary restraining order barring the city of La Crosse from constructing a portion of the trail, and an eventual permanent injunction halting it.

But the city’s attorney indicated this was a flaw with the petitioner’s argument because the construction of the project was contracted through ORA, which is currently not part of the lawsuit.

Grandad Bluff Trail "The Gateway"

The roughly five-miles of new multi-trail use will begin construction later this month.

“Up until today, we did not hear this argument; we did not know the contract was signed by ORA,” said Christine Clair, a signed petitioner and the groups legal representation.

The city, represented by Ryan Braithwaite, also indicated that they would be arguing that the petition was the improper step to halt the project and that its arguments were not factual.

The petitioners indicated that they would be using an independent environmental study done by a UW-Madison professor in its argument, which cites the building of trails would cause irreparable harm to the bluff.

This ongoing battle over the trail project started earlier in the year, when residents who lived at the base of the bluff reported that they feared it would cause environmental damage to the bluff, put their homes at risk of landslide or erosion, and an increase in traffic in their neighborhood.

But the city disagreed, saying that the construction of the trail would eliminate existing rogue trails that were causing more damage to the bluff, and make the area more accessible to manage litter and graffiti on the land.

Judge Ziegler also indicated issues he had with the petition, including whether the lawsuit was the correct action for the opposing party and the significance of how the petitioners would be impacted by the project.

“What rights exactly are we talking about? Are they Constitutional rights, statutory rights, rights by contract? Are they just basic moral rights?” he said.

“Is that in and of itself sufficient, that there is irreparable harm to the bluff itself, that’s not irreparable harm to the plaintiff?” Ziegler said.

The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. June 5, and will take place via Zoom, where a decision will be made on the temporary restraining order.


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