An aging bridge on a popular La Crosse trail was replaced Friday thanks to some heavy lifting from ROTC volunteers at the Winona State University and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
ORA Trails, which received a community bridge building award last weekend from La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat, led the effort to replace the bridge on Oak Trail in Hixon Forest.
The ROTC volunteers use the trail system or part of their training for the Northern Warfare Challenge every February.
La Crosse Park and Rec provided the raw materials for the bridge.
Increased amounts of rain coming off of Bliss Road the past several years have created deeper ravines and a need for bigger and better bridges in Hixon Forest, ORA officials said. The old bridge had to be moved twice because of erosion and was at risk of falling into the ravine again. The new bridge is twice the length of the old bridge.
The ROTC students are part of ORA Trails massive all-volunteer effort that has transformed Lower and Upper Hixon Forest into a Midwest destination for hiking and biking and is part of ORA’s effort to get more families in the woods enjoying an improved quality of life.
ORA Trails is working with area municipalities and 285 trail-building volunteers to build 50 miles of shared-use trails in the next five years.
ORA Trails and La Crosse Park and Rec have collaborated on multiple projects the past several years including new bike-optimized trails and pump track in Upper Hixon, the Community Forest Trails near State Road School and the redesign of Lueth Park into a state of the art pump track and skate board park at West Avenue and La Crosse Street.
ORA Trails is one of three organizations in the country that were awarded a trail accelerator grant from the International Mountain Biking Association. ORA Trails and IMBA collaborated on designing a new trail project, named “Grandma’s Gateway” in honor of land preservation activist and Grandmother Ellen Hixon, that will reclaim areas near Grandad Bluff that are overrun with invasive species, litte, and rogue trails, into a place where families can reflect on nature and enjoy new routes to the top of Grandad Bluff that will help ease hike and bike traffic on Bliss Road.
In addition to building bridges and trails, in August ORA Trails was instrumental in bringing 1,000 cyclists to La Crosse and the start line for Wisconsin Bike Fed’s “Ride Across Wisconsin” from La Crosse to Green Bay. For the past eight years, ORA Trails has staged the La Crosse Omnium in May, and a WORS mountain bike series race in August.
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