Evers vetoes funding for bike trail repairs
A $100,000 appropriation for repairing flood damage to the Elroy Sparta State Bicycle Trail and 400 State Trail was one of the 78 proposals Gov. Tony Evers slashed from the state budget with his veto pen last week.
In his veto statement Evers said that instead of earmarking funds for specific trails, the matter should be left up to the DNR.
“I am vetoing this section because I object to directing the department to repair specific trails," said Evers. "The flooding of 2018 caused damage throughout the state trails system, not just these two trails. This veto would allow the department to prioritize repairs based on the best interests of the state and all trail users.”
Severe flooding that occurred between Aug. 17 and Sept. 2017, damaged the area bike trails. Landslides, and other debris caused structural damage along the bike trails, as well as major erosion and complete washouts of some sections.
The DNR estimated the storms caused approximately $3.7 million in damages to state properties alone, ranging across 14 south central counties. Estimates for damage to just the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail totaled approximately $679,000. The 400 Trail sustained roughly $350,000 in damages.
Sections of the Elroy-Sparta trail still remain closed due to severe washouts, large amounts of debris, and severe erosion of several bridge abutments. The section of trail between Wilton and Kendall sustained the most extensive damage, however, the trail is now open from Sparta to Kendall.
“I’m disappointed and frustrated that the Governor chose this course of action without any prior communication from him or his team regarding why this funding was inserted and why it would make a huge difference for the Sparta area, Monroe County, and our region," said Rep. Nancy VanderMeer of Tomah, who was instrumental in securing the bike trail funds.
"The Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail is historic and is the nation’s first ever Rails-to-Trails project. It draws international interest to Wisconsin. $100,000 is really not a huge amount of money in the greater scheme of an $83 billion budget and the way we set it up didn’t ask for new money, just devoting existing funds to the project."
VanderMeer also said the bike trails are an economic driver for the area, drawing in thousands of tourists every year. That money, she added, will be lost to other attractions in the state if the trails aren't repaired.
"I was very pleased that we were able to secure state resources to help, but now I’m encouraging area residents and stakeholders to contact the Governor and his appointees at the Department of Tourism and the Department of Natural Resources," said VanderMeer. "It’s unfortunately all we can do right now.”