Volunteers first opened the Ringle Segment to the public over 40 years ago. That previous generation of volunteers used whatever they could to piece together a route. Old logging roads, what we today call troads, were often the best option. That old route served us well but it took quite a beating and missed many landforms needed to tell the unique story that can be woven into the Ice Age Trail.
Over the past fifteen years, the properties needed to make this segment of the IAT permanent have been purchased from willing landowners. Protection work is time consuming and not possible without the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), state Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, county governments and private donations. The Ringle Segment puzzle pieces are now in place.
Three years ago, Tim Malzhan and I began to explore this recently protected trailway with new eyes, with the hope of re-imagining and redesigning the Ringle Segment according to current trail layout, design, compliance and construction standards.
We designed a new route to take in many of the best landforms of the trailway, to tell a nationally significant natural history story and to be a sustainable recreation resource. It took hundreds of hours. The new route underwent archeological, water quality and endangered species review before any ground breaking could occur.
So when fifty or so of us gathered this weekend to finally break ground, we were standing on the shoulders of many people and over four decades of effort. But we are not finished. Oh no. We made better than expected progress but only scratched the surface. It will be a few more years before you will be able to hike all six miles and it will be worth the all the effort. I can assure you this is going to be an outstanding segment of Ice Age Trail to hike not just once. It's gonna be a great one!
If this sounds interesting to you, consider joining us to volunteer at future projects May 17-21, August 9-13 and in future years. To find out how, click on http://www.iceagetrail.org/volunteer/mobile-skills-crew-program/project-schedule/