The Board of Directors of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) has voted to develop a new trailhead just south of Cable, WI, off highway 63 and Leonard School Road. The Board also decided to continue use of the Cable Airport for the start of the Birkie ski races as long as possible.
There are several reasons the ABSF Board made these decisions:
First, the new trailhead will be available to and used by the public year-round for hiking, running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, and other non-motorized recreation.
Second, the existing trail that uses the airport start area crosses private lands owned by six different landowners. If any one of these properties is sold or access is denied for any other reason, the Birkie would be left without a start location and the need to find a new one. In addition, access to several of these properties is now limited to use only on race day. Use of the Cable airport also requires annual approval from state and federal agencies. Building the new trailhead would provide a backup start area if and when any land-use issues arise.
Third, the planning, budgeting, and costs associated with using these private lands has also become a concern. For example, during the past year, one of the private landowners initially proposed to charge ABSF a fee of $100,000 to $150,000 for race day use of the trail and facilities. This fee was later reduced to $25,000 and access was allowed, five weeks before the 2011 event.
By creating a permanent trailhead on its own land that is also suitable as a backup start area, the ABSF has found a way to secure a long-term solution that will be in place if needed. The new trailhead will also enhance Cable’s reputation as a year-round destination for outdoor recreation not only for skiing, but also for snowshoeing, hiking, running, and mountain biking.
The ABSF will present its request to construct the connector trail, linking the trailhead across three-quarter miles of Bayfield County forest to the Birkie Trail. This request will be presented at a public hearing to be held by the Bayfield County Forestry Committee on January 11, at 6:00 p.m. at the Cable Community Center. If approved, the ABSF will purchase 120 acres from two private landowners. Construction of the new trailhead would begin in spring, 2012. The new trailhead and trail would be in place by late fall for general, non-motorized recreational use and for the 2012-2013 ski season.
Birkie events alone--including the American Birkebeiner ski races, the Birkie ski Tour, and the Birkie Trail Run & Trek--currently bring more than 24,000 visitors through Cable and surrounding communities each year. A new year-round trailhead on a major road corridor is expected to increase this traffic, resulting in economic benefit to local businesses and communities.
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