As any avid Milwaukee-area mountain biker knows, finding enjoyable singletrack through hilly wooded terrain requires a drive of a 30- to 60-minute drive, depending on the direction you travel.
While Lapham Peak is about 20 minutes from the west side of town, the mountain bike trails there are mainly in the open fields west of County Highway C with very little trail in wooded or hilly areas. While the trails are ideal for young families or for those looking for a casual ride, they are nowhere in the class of the trails in the southern or northern Kettle Moraine.
Milwaukee County has almost 30 total miles of legal off-road bike trail while the entire county of Waukesha County only has four miles worth, consisting entirely of trail on the west side of Lapham Peak State Park.
That is about to change because of a cooperative effort in Minooka Park in eastern Waukesha County, where Waukesha Bicycle Alliance has agreed to design, construct and maintain new singletrack for mountain biking. In a cooperative manner, the Milwaukee Metro Mountain Bikers are also heavily involved in the construction of the trails. The point man for the project is Ron Stawicki, vice president of the Waukesha Bicycle Alliance and a mechanic at the Wheel & Sprocket store in Delafield.
For those of you familiar with Minooka, the area is overrun with a convoluted network of trails for other users. Then there's dog parks on the northeast side. Where, you may ask, is there room for new bike trails?
The existing warren of trails is concentrated in the northern and western sections of the park. The southeast sections are relatively undeveloped, and that is where the new mountain bike trails will be go. This area is wooded with rolling terrain and ideal for singletrack, especially of an intermediate nature. And while there is a hiking trail through that area, it is so designed that there is little chance its users will come into contact with riders on the new mountain bike trail.
The stated objective, as stated on waukeshacounty.gov, is to include at Minooka Park "singletrack trails (for mountain biking) as well as a multiuse trailhead. There will be trails for a variety of different skill levels, from beginner to advanced, covering a variety of terrain. The singletrack aspect of the trails encourages safe riding speeds."
According to Stawicki, the most difficult Minooka trails will be of an intermediate nature. And that's what's needed in southeast Wisconsin - safe terrain where younger and beginning bikers can develop their bike handling skills. With the loss of mountain biking opportunities at Scuppernong and Greenbush, rolling family-friendly terrain has literally disappeared in this corner of the state.
Access to the Minooka mountain bike trails is from the Picnic Area 5 parking lo. Drive as far south as you can on the park road and you'll run right into it. Presently, there is 1.5 miles of beginner trails in place in Minooka, the result of eight work days last fall.
According to Stawicki, the goal is to finish five to six miles of singletrack over the next couple of years. These trails will be developed using standards for sustainable trails promoted by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. For those of you who aren't familiar with IMBA guidelines, the goal is to avoid building trails that are easily damaged or vulnerable to erosion.
The goal is to create a trail system for mountain bikes, or for any other trail use, that requires little or no maintenance. Stawicki said the goal is to "build once to last a long time."
The county website adds that naturalists have been consulted "to minimize impact on the park's significant natural resources."
If you'd like to pitch in, the trail work crew meets Saturdays in the parking lot of Picnic Area 5 at 9 a.m. and wraps up at noon. For more details, go to metromountainbikers.com.
As for trying out the new 1.5-mile beginner trail, I have a suggestion. Instead of biking in circles until you get dizzy, make a loop that includes all the paved roads in the parks. If you enter the park by motor vehicle, you will be expected to buy a daily or annual park sticker. The annual fee for one vehicle is $28 for state residents and $14 for seniors. The resident daily rate is $4.
And make note, as the county website does, that use of the mountain bike trails at Minooka Park is allowed from April 1 to November 31. Snowshoeing will be allowed on the new singletrack from December 1 to March 31.
Lee Borowski is a past USSA Nordic Coach of the Year, Badger State Winter Games Athlete of the Year and the coach for several junior, senior and collegiate skiers of the year. He has also coached many master skiers who have won both national and world championships. Borowski is the author of several books and articles, and producer of four videos on cross-country skiing technique. He runs the website thesimplesecrets.com.