Last week the Winona City Council reaffirmed its support for Buffalo County’s Flyway Trail project, which would connect Winona to western Wisconsin’s extensive bike trail system.
At last week’s meeting, council members discussed the first leg of the trail, which would connect Winona to Wisconsin by way of the Old Wagon Bridge in Aghaming Park on Latsch Island.
The connection will involve the construction of a $2.8 million railroad overpass to allow riders to safely and legally cross the tracks into Wisconsin.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” council member Paul Schollmeier said. “It will be a great addition to the menu of outdoor recreation options we have, and I think that it will be an economic player for Buffalo and Winona County.”
The council’s unanimous vote allows the Wisconsin DOT and the Buffalo County Land Trails and Trust to move forward with the project.
Assistant City Manager Chad Ubl said WisDOT was asking the city for permission to use old Hwy. 43 as part of the trail.
“The concurrence is required for the trail to proceed as well as for their environmental review,” Ubl said.
Ross Johnson of WisDOT said the city had to agree that the trail would not harm or degrade Aghaming Park and would instead improve or enhance it.
Johnson was careful to note that the vote did not obligate the city to a financial commitment.
He said organizers have already secured the funding for the first stage of the project. Roughly $2.3 million will come from the DOT while the remaining $500,000 came from other sources.
The Winona bridge connection is the first step in a much larger project planned for completion in 2026.
When complete, the three-part, $21 million trail will extend roughly 40 miles north along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River Valley connecting Nelson, Wabasha, Alma, Cochrane, Buffalo City, Fountain City and Winona with the River State Trail in Marshland.
The second stage, planned for 2023, will involve the construction of a 2.8 mile-long bike and pedestrian trail connecting Winona to existing trail networks in Wisconsin that extend as far as Reedsburg, Wis. — more than 100 miles away.
Third stage and final and more expensive stage, planned for 2026, will connect Winona to Alma. The Alma segment is projected to cost $16.7 million. State and federal agencies will cover up to 80 percent of the project.
The BCLTT plans to begin construction on the Winona bridge connection in 2020.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am. It will be a great addition to the menu of outdoor recreation options we have, and I think that it will be an economic player for Buffalo and Winona County.” Paul Schollmeier, council member