Taking a page from the local motor sports lovers' playbook, more than 100 bicyclists showed up at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Badger State Trail in Belleville last week and swept three of their own into open seats on the advisory group's board.
The mobilization was led by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and aided by the Bombay Bicycle Club, Trek, Saris, REI and others. The result: Bicyclists now hold three of the board's seven seats, up from one. Board members serve three-year terms.
That still leaves the Friends group with a four-member majority that favors letting ATVs and snowmobiles on the 33-mile trail, which runs from just south of Paoli to the Illinois state line. When the Friends group was formed last January, motor sports enthusiasts turned out to pack the board with proponents of year-round ATV use.
As part of a three-year trial that ends next winter, the entire trail is open to seasonal snowmobiling, but ATVers are allowed only conditional winter use of an 11-mile stretch between Monroe and Monticello. The Friends group provides input to the Natural Resources Board, which sets trail policy.
Once a seven-mile connection to Madison/Fitchburg is complete, the Badger State Trail is expected to attract up to 175,000 bicyclists a year. David Vogt, deputy director of the Bicycle Federation, told the audience at the Nov. 27 meeting at Belleville High, "I am particularly interested in seeing the Badger State Trail's northern connection to Madison completed." He was elected to an at-large seat.
Sharon Kaminecki, owner of the Earth Rider Bicycling Boutique in Brodhead on the intersecting Sugar River Trail, was elected vice president. She proposed a "trail explorer" program to award patches to cyclists who, in a single year, pedal the entire Badger, Sugar and connecting Jane Addams Trail in Illinois.
Bernie Robertson, an avid Monroe-area cyclist, was elected treasurer.
The Bike Fed's slate of candidates was backed by most of the 149 people who paid $15 in membership dues to vote at the annual meeting. The spike in membership added more than $2,200 to the Friends' coffers and presented a mandate to promote bicycling on the trail.