Board considers plowing trails in Ashwaubenon
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The Ashwaubenon village board discussed the possibility of providing more access to walkers and bikers in the winter by funding the plowing of 10.3 miles of paved trails in the village June 27.
Upon the recommendation of Village Manager Joel Gregozeski, the board agreed to refer the matter back to the committee level to consider during the 2022 budget process.
“There’s certainly additional information that needs to be provided to the board before a formal decision is going to be made,” he said. “We do have some time to do that in preparation of our budget process for next year.”
In determining whether to fund the plowing, Gregozeski said “we need to get more specific with what that level of service looks like.”
“In addition to that level of service, tie into the prioritization of what trails (to plow),” he said. “Maybe that’s part of that conversation of the level of service. Maybe certain trails get cleared and cleaned sooner or more often than other trails, so there may be deviations that way…”
Gregozeski said a proposal or request for proposal could be put together at the committee level related to having a private contractor clear the trails.
“Through staff’s assistance, we could go out and seek proposals from maybe one or two firms to get a more budget-conscience number as to what we’re attempting to do,” he said.
The board heard from members of the village’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, who proposed a private contractor clear the following trails and related lengths: Packerland (3.2 miles); West Main (1.3 miles); Industrial Park (1.3 miles); Sand Acres (1 mile); Waube (1 mile); Ashwaubomay River Trail (1.2 miles); and Argonne (1.3 miles).
Based on an anticipated cost of $2,500 to $3,000 per mile, presuming an average winter snowfall, the committee’s proposal listed an estimated annual cost of $27,750 to $30,900.
The estimated cost is based on clearing trails 48 to 72 hours after a snowfall greater than 2 inches.
Committee member Dale Schmitz said people walk in the street or stay indoors in winter because they have nowhere else to go.
“Our trails are covered with snow, making them impassable,” he said.
Schmitz said it is a double standard, or inequity in the village, when streets are cleared of snow, “but safe and enjoyable routes for pedestrians in the winter have not been part of the local transportation plans.”
“More cities are starting to recognize clear trails as an important quality-of-life and equity issue that deserves public support,” he said. “Ashwaubenon can and should begin clearing trails during the winter months.”
Committee member Jessica Atkinson said the COVID-19 pandemic increased the number of people walking, running and bicycling in the community, and the need for year-round trail access is greater than ever.
“Initially when the trails were put in, we know that was the discussion, and it made sense back then, not to clear them (in winter),” she said.
“But we’re seeing a noticeable change within our community, and that’s what they’re requesting. It isn’t safe in our winter months for a lot of them to go (on the trails).”
Atkinson said Ashwaubenon is seeking to develop a vision as being an inclusive, attractive and award-winning community, and one way to do that would be improving and maintaining its public infrastructure and facilities.
“That includes our roadways and highway for our pedestrians and bicyclists as well,” she said. “Maintaining these trails in the winter will definitely help work toward that new vision of the village.”
Committee member Kyle Gigot said past boards have done things to improve the village by being responsive to citizen needs and requests.
“We ask this board be also responsive and seriously consider these changes and put the funds for the snow plowing in the budget,” he said.
Village President Mary Kardoskee said she has been in contact with the Village of Hobart, “because the Packerland (Drive) is slightly challenging.”
“A third of it is in the Village of Hobart, so that would be their responsibility,” she said. “That would be one of their budget items… About 80% of that trail does fall on the Oneida Reservation, so I felt that they should be notified if we’re going to continue to go forward with salting that trail, because it is on reservation land.”
Kardoskee said Hobart does not clear the Packerland trail, and she was informed it has no desire to plow it.
She said plowing the trails would be a “big policy change.”
“We’ve never done this,” Kardoskee said. “Like I said, we don’t have the in-house staff to be able to do it, so it definitely is a contracted item.”
Trustee Jay Krueger questioned whether $30,000 would be enough to plow the trails.
“I’m all for that this is something that I think we need to look as part of the budget, but I don’t think 30K is enough,” he said. “When I was president of a church in Allouez, we would spend 10K on 100 parking spaces in the winter, so I think 30K is very short.”
Krueger said he favored getting bids for plowing the trails to have for budgeting purposes.
Trustee Steve Kubacki, who previously was Ashwaubenon’s village administrator more than a decade ago, said it was specifically stated when the trails went in they were not to be plowed in the winter.
“That was part of the sale of these trails,” he said. “They were to be mowed and otherwise maintained for spring, summer and fall use, but not for winter use. That was specifically discussed at that point in time.”
Kubacki said looking at whether to plow the trails now should be done during the budget process.
“It is going to be expensive to keep those roads and trails in really good shape,” he said. “If you’re going to do it, you’re going to want to do it right.”
Trustee Tracy Flucke, who chairs the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, said it is important for people in the community to be able to walk and bike year-round.
“We can certainly research (plowing trails) more, but I think it needs to be part of the budget process, and make due consideration to it to get it into the 2022 budget,” she said.