ONALASKA, Wis. (WXOW) – It's a victory for snowmobilers Saturday as they opened up a new link between two key snow mobile trails in the state.
The trails can travel from Ashland to Janesville.
In November, the link between the two trails was severed.
It crossed over Onalaska property owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.
The railroad had no formal use agreement on record, according to BNSF Director of Public Affairs Amy McBeth.
Members of the Coulee Sno-Drifters said they've use the strip of land for about two decades.
Saturday, snowmobilers put up signs and officially opened a new link between the trails.
Hanging signs comes with its challenges.
"We've been fighting with this for a while," said Ron Kendhammer, attempting to fasten a sign to a post.
He's the trail coordinator for the Coulee Sno-Drifters. So he knows first hand that finding a new intersection to connect two snowmobile trails is even harder work.
So does Sno-Drifters President Gary Hanson.
Now that there's a new link, he's armed with a drill gun. Oak Forest Drive is his battlefield.
Riders looking to change between the Great River and Elroy-Sparta trails can now turn onto Oak Forest Drive in Onalaska and cross over Highway 35 at the traffic lights. Once they cross the street, there's and entrance to the other trail.
It's a decision the City of Onalaska approved Tuesday, after three months without a connection.
"We had to get busy and figure out—we looked at a lot of different options," Kendhammer said, adding the city approved the plan quickly so snowmobilers can use the intersection before the season ends in March.
"When you bypass a trail, your options are different. You have to go someplace maybe you don't want to go or you may never go back to where you do want to go," Hanson said.
Without the link, it's a two hour detour that even affects businesses on the trails, he added.
For the Sno-Drifters, Saturday drills home a victory; a sign that a new link is officially open.
In January, BNSF Railway issued a statement to News 19 about denying access to their stretch of property that connected the trails.
It reads, in part: "Safety is BNSF Railway's number one priority. We do not allow longitudinal easements for trails or other recreational activities on railroad property for the safety of the general public and our employees."
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