Concerns raised about water clearance for proposed trail bridge
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Concerns were aired during an informational meeting Thursday, Nov. 12, at village hall about the possible impact to boaters with plans to build a bridge across the mouth of Ashwaubenon Creek between Ashwaubomay Park and Aldon Station.
The plans are part of the proposed Ashwaubomay River Trail extension south from the Bay Harbor condominium complex to the Brown County Fairgrounds.
“(The trail extension is) a project that’s been on the books for at least 15 or 20 years,” said Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Rex Mehlberg. “And it’s starting to finally come to fruition with some of the work that we’re looking at here.”
Mehlberg said a minimum clearance of 5 feet above the ordinary high water mark would be required for the bridge by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Residents who keep boats in the creek objected to plans to build the bridge and the impact it could have on their water access to the Fox River and beyond.
Those at the informational meeting suggested looking at other options for routing the trail, instead of building a bridge that could prevent larger boats from getting underneath the span.
Patrick Skalecki of Graef, the village’s paid consultant for the project, said the bridge is now being designed with permitting yet to come and grant funding being sought from the DNR.
After going through the design phase this winter, he said bidding could take place sometime next spring or early summer with construction starting in late summer or early fall when work in the water could take place to avoid the time fish would be spawning.
Skalecki said decking could take place the following winter and finish up the next spring to complete the bridge before the summer of 2022.
He said there would be water access at all times while construction takes place.
As planned, Skalecki said the bridge would be about 385 feet long with 4 1/2 to 5 feet in depth for a height of around 9 feet above the water.
“We have about a 5-foot drop to make up on a slope on both approaches on both sides, under this scenario of a 5-foot (clearance),” he said.
Skalecki said he believes it would be possible to have about 7 feet of clearance at the center span “without really adding a ton of cost to the project.”
“If we make it too high, we might lengthen the bridge, which is going to cause longer girders, in some cases, more decking and everything,” he said.
Skalecki said making the bridge longer or higher would increase the cost.
Mehlberg said he estimates the bridge portion of the trail extension project as currently proposed will cost about $1.4 million, including the landings, the connection to the parking lot, lighting, etc.
“Regarding the costs, the source of those funds, we already have that money,” he said. “It is a combination of TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) dollars through TIF (District No.) 3 from the different TIF District buildings that have been built within that area could be used for this project, as well as some park development funding… However this trail develops, the money is already there for it, and it’s not going to be increasing the tax rate at all.”
Based on the feedback from the informational meeting, Mehlberg said Graef will take a look at the height the bridge could be built above the water on top.
“But at this point, I think from the concerns, I will need to work with Patrick (Skalecki) and Graef on exactly how high we can get that (bridge clearance) and not kill the project, basically, but still allow for boat access,” he said.
Village President Mary Kardoskee said the village will have further discussion about the bridge with Graef.