The La Crosse Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Tuesday recommended a shift in the regional bike trail that goes through the city, putting it closer to its namesake.
The Wisconsin Mississippi River Parkway Commission, the state chapter of a national organization that oversees the Great River Road and Mississippi River Trail, passed a resolution late last year asking the city to enhance the river views of the local branch of the river trail. It also asked municipalities and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to pay for signs to mark the bike trail, which runs throughout the region.
WisDOT urban and regional planner Francis Schelfhout explained that the trail is intended to complement the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, following the same general route used by drivers.
As part of that group’s effort to get the trail better signed and marketed, they asked the city to look at its route.
“They would like to see the area in the city of La Crosse actually get a little closer to the river. Quite a bit of it is actually bumped up to the base of the bluff,” Schelfhout said.
While the parkway commission ultimately decides the route, the group keeps La Crosse’s recommendation in mind.
“I don’t know what they’re going to decide, but I think the key is that they can’t react to it until we nail down the routes through the city based upon the regional perspective,” Schelfhout said.
The new proposed route takes advantage of new infrastructure installed since the route was first set.
The route chosen by the La Crosse committee starts on the north end by the Great River State Trail head in Onalaska and is known now simply as route one. The proposed Mississippi River Trail route follows the Bud Hendrickson Nature Trail, runs down La Crosse bike routes on Ranger Drive, Clinton Street and Avon Street and picks up the North La Crosse River Trail and through Riverside North. The south end of the trail picks up at Riverside Park, runs through Isle La Plume to the Green Island Path and VIP trail behind Gundersen Health System and follows the connections to East Avenue and back through the subdivision behind the Mormon Coulee Road Walmart, connecting through Rivercrest Drive back to Mormon Coulee Road.
Schelfhout reached out to other groups designing bike routes for advice, he said.
“When they looked at alternatives and choice options and stuff like that, they said to look wholly at comfort and safety,” Schelfhout said.
Regular commuter cyclists may look for the most direct routes, but more people are interested in routes where they can feel safe and comfortable away from heavy traffic, he said.
The only potential snag is Rivercrest Drive, which is a private road that the city would need an easement to use for the trail, according to assistant city engineer Matt Gallagher, who chairs the committee.
“It’s got to be a friendly purchase or agreement to go through there. In the event that the owners of the trailer park are not interested, it dies. Even if they are, some source of funds would have to be found,” Gallagher said.
If Rivercrest Drive isn’t an option, Schelfhout recommended the trail signs direct people to the Pammel Creek Trail, rather than 33rd Street or South Avenue.
Jim Longhurst, an advocate for cycling in La Crosse, agreed with Schelfhout’s advice, saying, “Southbound on 33rd, taking some sort of left across Mormon Coulee is terrifying. That’s an unsignalized intersection, and, as a cyclist, that’s not preferred.”
There are some signs already over by the bluff, but they’re not very effective.
“The signs are just a little bit bigger than a business card,” Schelfhout said.
The ultimate goal is to support the regional trail system and boost tourism along both the trail and the Great River Road.