ABSF & Town of Cable Collaborate on Idle Site Grant for Removal of Storied Telemark Lodge
Hayward, WI (June 24, 2020) The year was 1973 when 35 skiers left Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward, WI, bound for Telemark Lodge and the finish line in the first-ever American Birkebeiner (Birkie) cross-country ski race. For years, the Telemark property and trails, located east of Cable, WI, were at the center of Birkie year-round events. In July 2019, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) signed a two-year lease agreement, with current owners, Mount Telemark Partners, with an option to purchase the 700+ acre property. The greater Telemark property has many challenges including the dilapidated lodge, overgrown trails, and old infrastructure, however, at its core is second to none in providing excellent outdoor recreational experience opportunities. The ABSF is taking the next step in securing permanent access to the Telemark property in part through the application of a Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Idle Site Grant, in collaboration with the Town of Cable, for removal of the shuttered Telemark Lodge. The ABSF hopes to close on purchase of the Telemark property in fall of 2020.
On June 17, the Town of Cable Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a Resolution of Support, in collaboration with the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, for the Idle Site Grant from the WEDC. The Idle Site Grant application process is underway and while there is no guarantee of receipt of the WEDC funds, the Town of Cable’s vote of approval provides an important collaborative step in this process as the ABSF moves toward purchase of Telemark and eventual future development of the property.
“Each year, the WEDC’s Idle Site Grant funding is awarded to identified projects across the state of Wisconsin. I can think of no better grant investment than the ABSF’s Telemark redevelopment project,” said Wisconsin State Senator, Janet Bewley. “If awarded, an infusion of up to $500,000 will go directly into the NW Wisconsin region. The eventual economic impact of a completed project will be a long-term boon for Cable and the surrounding communities.”
As part of a multi-phase redevelopment project, the ABSF has engaged Cedar Corporation (Menomonie, WI) to assist with the application for the WEDC Idle Site Grant toward removal of the Telemark property structure. The Idle Sites Program offers grants of up to $500,000 to Wisconsin communities for the redevelopment of sites that have been idle, abandoned or underutilized. Blighted properties can lead to decreased property tax revenue; the Idle Sites Redevelopment Program provides incentives to help rejuvenate abandoned sites and assistance in elevating local economies. Approved projects can use funds for demolition, environmental remediation, infrastructure or site-specific improvements to advance the site to shovel-ready status.
“The ABSF’s goal is to bring the Telemark property back as a centerpiece of the Cable community. Like our Samuel C. Johnson Family Outdoor Center at the OO Trailhead, we are deliberate in our staged and fiscally responsible approach to our projects,” said Ben Popp, ABSF Executive Director. “Our multi-phase plan for the Telemark property provides a realistic and financially appropriate cadence to redevelopment, beginning with trail infrastructure and removal of the Telemark Lodge buildings. We’re very excited at what the future holds!”
Current property owners, Mount Telemark Partners, stated, “We’re very pleased with the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation’s vision for the Telemark property, the economic impact it will bring to the Cable area, and the opportunities it will provide to locals and visitors alike in enjoying the beautiful and historic Telemark property.”
While the American Birkebeiner race may have started with humble beginnings, the Birkie has since grown to become North America’s largest and most prestigious cross-country ski race. The Telemark trails and property are adjacent to the American Birkebeiner ski race’s permanent start line and Trailhead venue, the gateway to the award-winning American Birkebeiner Trail. With over 100,000 visitors to the Birkie Trail each year, the area has become a mecca for silent sports enthusiasts. The Telemark property boasts approximately 30-kilometers of cross-country ski trails, 15-miles of mountain bike and snowshoe trails, and welcomed an estimated 55,000 users last year alone. Restoration work by ABSF trail staff has already begun on some of the Telemark property trails with initial snowmaking infrastructure improvements currently underway. All other trails that currently cross Telemark Property will continue, unchanged, including snowmobile, ATV, Hiking, and CAMBA mountain bike trails.
“The Telemark property has been at the heart of the Birkie since the race’s inception. Having the opportunity to once again utilize the trails, to confidently install snowmaking infrastructure, and to make venue improvements is very exciting,” said Ben Popp, Executive Director, American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. “Having access to the land will help the ABSF to host events of all levels, to support an active outdoor lifestyle, and to ensure the long-term viability of Birkie events for years to come.”