By Brian Roebke
The Town of Wrightstown Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion at last week’s town meeting to the Brown County Road to allow the use of snowmobiles on the Fox River Trail north of Greenleaf from Fair Road to Wrightstown Road beginning with the 2024-25 snow season.
Speaking to the three dozen people at the meeting, Supervisor Jesse Juedes thought making the recommendation would be appropriate since the county will now study the issue and make a final determination. Not recommending it might mean the county wouldn’t even look at it.
Town Chairman Bill Verbeten briefed the audience that when the trail was opened in 2001, it was deemed too close to existing homes and the noise of the snowmobiles could be bothersome.
Another issue that could make this all a moot point is the snowmobile trails haven’t been open the last three years and nobody knows when there will be enough snow to open them in the future. This winter is off to a bad start with little snow on the ground as of Sunday.
Verbeten said times change and people change, so he felt the town board should discuss the request.
Ron Kusera, president of the Brown County Snowmobile Alliance and Brown County director for the Wisconsin Alliance of Snowmobile Clubs, said he traveled on the east side of Wrightstown Road to visit the residents closest to the trail. He claimed to have spoken with 12 people closest to the trail, and didn’t get any negative feedback.
He said the trail would be groomed and he didn’t see any reason for a snowmobile driver to leave the trail and get close to homes.
The biggest thing extending the trail would do is extenD access to two businesses — Just Stop In and Legestone Vineyard — that are not open late at night.
He noted snowmobiles have gotten quieter through manufacturing technologies and snow naturally deadens sound.
Juedes believes the original denial of snowmobiles was because the county planned to pave the trail a few years later but almost 20 years later, it still hasn’t been done
Brown County has discussed laying asphalt on the trail that now has pea gravel on it but Verbeten and several snowmobile enthusiasts noted asphalt on the trail is not the issue at hand, since that would be up to Brown County and is an entirely separate issue, although the two have been tied together since this issue has arisen.
Kusera said two businesses, Just Stop In and Ledgestone Vineyards, are two businesses that will benefit.
Katrina Magnuson, who owns the winery with her husband, had no concern over the snowmobiling but was in favor of asphalt being added to the trail for the bikers and walkers who use the trail eight months of the year.
“I think blacktop would really encourage more people to come down,” she said.
Magnuson said Marinette County has ways to preserve and protect the asphalt surface and that’s something the town can talk about.
“I’m for the businesses but I’m also for the blacktop, so I don’t know where those two things cross,” she said.
Jack Gilson, who said Kusera never talked to his son that lives along the trail, thought it would be dangerous to put snowmobiles on the trail because the trail was designed to have no motorized vehicles on it and there could be walkers on the trail with ear buds and they may not even hear a snowmobile driving near them.
Brown County Parks Director Matt Kriese said it couldn’t happen yet this year, but if there is a change it would be for the winter of 2024-25. The issue could be discussed at the education and recreation committee in January, with the earliest approval at the February meeting.
He recommends doing an entire study of the trail system in the county before the county board made any decisions, which would likely come later next year.
Kreise said the county uses infrared counters to determine usage but it can’t track the exact use whether they are bikers or walkers.
Magnuson noted she’s never had issues with the snowmobile club that uses their property in the past.
She’s in favor of blacktopping the trail because it would benefit everyone for eight months a year but thinks it could be used for snowmobiling as well.
She realizes blacktop makes the snow melt faster.
Doug Carter is afraid the blacktop would put a lot of restrictions on the trail.
Gilson owns land on both sides of the trail and doesn’t think snowmobiles on the trail is appropriate.
“I think it’s going to be dangerous.”
Tracie Flucke, president of the Friends of Fox River Trail, said their mission is to enhance, maintain, and collaborate for all things about the Fox River Trail and they’re almost finished with a $2.1 million capital campaign to pay for asphalt on the trail down to Greenleaf, take care of failed culverts, and create new parking spaces.
“The trail is busy,” she said. “It’s actually the most popular trail in the state. We have had more than three million visitors since the trail opened in 2001.”
Flucke did not advocate for or against snowmobiling on the trail.
Brian Kavanaugh of the Fox Valley Snow Riders Club, said he gets a lot of thumbs up from fat tire bikes, skiers and snowshoers when he grooms other trails.
The speed limit is 10 mph when driving by people.
Mike Tilleman said certain trails up north allow ATVs etc. but they are not allowed anywhere around here.
Supervisor Ron Diny emphasized no current uses of the trail would be taken away, and he said town board permission could be taken away just as fast as it would be approved it it’s not working out.
By Brian Roebke