Conservation easement benefits Minocqua Winter Park
Couple's donation guarantees access to skiers, snowshoers
The Nordic skiing haven of Minocqua Winter Park Nordic Center is now the perpetual beneficiary of the largest conservation easement ever donated to a Wisconsin land trust. The Winter Park Pines Nature Preserve was established on December 1 with a conservation easement by Ken and Carolyn Aldridge to the Northwoods Land Trust. The 3,195-acre property - nearly five square miles - includes about 43K of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails at the core of the Minocqua Winter Park Nordic Center's trail system.
"This is a Christmas present for friends of Minocqua Winter Park," Northwoods Land Trust Executive Director Bryan Pierce said in a press release describing the property as one of the premier cross-country ski trail systems in the Midwest.
The ski chalet is located on 40 acres of land owned by the Town of Minocqua and managed for public use under an agreement with the Lakeland Ski Touring Foundation, Inc. The Winter Park Pines Nature Preserve surrounds the chalet property.
The Aldridges of Libertyville, Illinois, and Minocqua bought the property in 2010 to prevent clear-cutting of the forest for a proposed golf course development, Carolyn Aldridge told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Ken Aldridge, owner of Aldridge Electric, told the newspaper the couple paid forest products company Potlatch Corp. $4.5 million to acquire the land.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust to permanently protect a property's natural characteristics by limiting how it can be used. The Aldridges remain owners of the property and pay its property taxes. Through the land protection agreement, the Aldridges have granted skiers perpetual access to the existing trails and have placed limits on forestry practices, land fragmentation, and development which will keep the land in its natural state. The land will remain open to the public forever for winter silent sports, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skijoring (skiing with dogs).
Ski trails now protected include the Base Loop, Tornado Alley, Survivor Windy Ridge, Nutcracker, Nose Dive, Beaver Pond, Creek Trail, Red Pine, Silver Strider, Sleigh Ride, VO2 Max, Nepco's Cruise, most of X-C Express and River Run, as well as the northern half of Yukon. Much of the newly expanded snowshoe trail system is protected as well.
The conservation agreement also protects over 13 miles of natural shorelines on the Squirrel River, Yukon Creek, Howard's Creek and other small unnamed streams and ponds. In addition, the land provides natural habitat buffers around and adjacent to the Squirrel River Pines State Natural Area.
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