Should the vision of the local Rails to Trails group come to fruition, walkers, runners and bicyclists will have a safe, crushed gravel path to take them from Burlington all the way to Lake Michigan along the old Union Pacific Railroad lines.
Shelly Petrick and Larissa Gallagher Tuesday visited Sturtevant to ask trustees and residents for their support in making the trail a reality.
“We’re asking for your support and that you let your public officials know that you support this effort,” Gallagher said.
Both women are part of Leadership Union Grove, a business development group that aims to make a long-lasting difference in the community through targeted projects that can be short- and long-term, like Rails to Trails.
In a nutshell, the old Soo Line Railroad runs in almost a perfect line from Burlington east through Union Grove and into Sturtevant where the trail would connect with the Racine-Sturtevant trail and then to the Racine County bike trail to Lake Michigan.
“This is about safety, but it’s also about promoting healthier lifestyles and positive economic impacts,” Petrick added. “There is evidence that tourism on both sides of the trail increases, and businesses along the way also benefit because visitors stop off for a coffee or to grab something to eat.”
The primary obstacle, of course, is money. State officials are in negotiations with the railroad to purchase the land needed for the trail transition. For land that has been acquired, Petrick said two construction companies promised to donate the gas and equipment needed if the Union Grove Rails to Trails group can get the volunteers.
Currently, the trail begins at Vandenboom Road and ends in Kansasville. Railroad crews are actively removing tracks, but Gallagher said the timing was really just a coincidence.
“We didn’t plan it this way, but it works out well,” she said.
Trustee Jayme Hoffman will attend a meeting next week with local and state officials to represent the village’s support for the project, and Trustee Chris Wright said the village plans to ask Racine County to use the $500,000 the county will get
To volunteer for Rails to Trails, contact the group on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/uniongroverailstotrails/.