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Glacial River Bike Trail

Imagine how hard it would be to sell a piece of property 2.3 miles long and about 40’ wide. You’d think you’d take the first decent offer that came along – but not the Union Pacific, which owned the abandoned segment of the Chicago & North Western Railway line that ran through Fort Atkinson. Starting in the mid-1990s, City of Fort Atkinson, WI-Government Manager John Wilmet began negotiating with UP to purchase the corridor to create a pedestrian/bike path for our community. It took seven long years to get them down from their over $1.2 million asking price. The City was finally able to purchase the corridor in 2003 for just under $600,000. Even better, it didn’t cost the City anything since all the money for the acquisition came from a grant from the WI Dept. of Natural Resources, gifts from two donors, and a grant from the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation.

At the same time, the City had also secured a $568,000 grant from the WI Dept. of

Transportation for trail design and construction. The finishing pieces of the financing puzzle were a $125,000 public fundraising campaign led by John McKenzie and additional funds from the Fort Atkison Community Foundation, including money from the Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson for the bike depot.

At the dedication ceremony on July 8, 2005, City Manager Wilmet congratulated City staff for their perseverance and he singled out Parks & Rec Director Scott Lastusky and assistant city engineer Rudy Bushcott for being the heart and soul of the project. John also noted that the City did not spend any tax-payer money on the $1.4 million project as all funding came from grants and gifts, including approximately $260,000 from the Community Foundation.

Our thanks to John Wilmet, John McKenzie, Scott Lastusky, Rudy Bushcott and everyone who helped made the bike path a reality for all of us to enjoy over the past 18 years.

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