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Group proposes trail connection in Walworth County

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Kayla Bunge
September 11, 2008
— Elizabeth Lyons’ dream is to connect 500 miles of trails in northern Illinois to 300 miles of trails in southern Wisconsin.

Preventing the link is a 10-mile gap from the state line to White River State Trail.


Lyons for years has watched people end their hikes or bike rides near her home in Genoa City at the Wisconsin-Illinois border.


A connection between the trails in McHenry County, Ill., and the White River State Trail, which runs from Elkhorn to Burlington, would preserve the picturesque rolling countryside that many Walworth County residents hold dear, she said.


A trail connection also would bring tourism dollars to small, struggling businesses in Genoa City and other nearby communities.


“This is a way to rebuild local economies by getting people out on foot and make them a captive audience for local businesses,” she said.


Lyons said the short trail through the new Nippersink North Branch Preserve in McHenry County, which connects the Hebron Trail to the Prairie Trail, has brought a number of people into Genoa City since it opened in July.


“It’s been such a gift to our village,” she said. “And tourism is growing throughout our county because of this connection.


“If we can make more beautiful routes … I think it’s our best bet to support (the communities along the trail).”


Lyons founded the Nippersink Trail Project, the non-profit organization that’s heading up the development of the 7-mile Bloomfield segment and 3-mile Geneva segment of the proposed Nippersink Trail.


The prospect of linking more than 800 miles of trails in two states is exciting, she said, but there’s a lot of planning that must happen before any trail markers are pounded into the ground.


Lyons said the group is seeking a partnership between local government, businesses and individuals to plan a route that best supports the local economy, showcases the county’s natural beauty and is supported by landowners.


“If you don’t want it in your backyard, help us find a way around it,” she said.


Lyons knows there’s going to be hesitation on the part of some landowners: Her backyard was the site of a maintenance road used during the construction of the Nippersink North Branch Preserve.


She said she was nervous, but understood that the park would be a benefit when completed.


And now Lyons and a volunteer group of about 10 people want to unveil the proposed Nippersink Trail at an open house Tuesday, Sept. 16, in Lake Geneva. The group is primarily seeking feedback from affected landowners to better identify the route that each segment will take, Lyons said.


When completed, the trail could be used year-round for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.


IF YOU GO
What: Nippersink Trail open house
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16.
Where: Geneva Lake Museum, 255 Mill St., Lake Geneva.
Information: Contact Elizabeth Lyons, founder of the Nippersink Trail Project, at (262) 279-2905 or writteninstone@charter.net, or go to http://nippersinktrail.org.

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