What are the main goals of the City Wells Trail Project?
To formalize the city-owned trail system at the Wells to provide the community with a welcoming and enjoyable outdoor experience for hikers, mountain bikers, snowshoers, XC skiers, and other silent sport enthusiasts.
What organizations are involved in this project?
This project is the result of a partnership between the City of Eau Claire, local trail organization CORBA (Community for Outdoor Recreation, Biking, & Adventure), and IMBA Trail Solutions.
CORBA is a 501c3 nonprofit, volunteer-based organization dedicated to building, improving, and maintaining multi-use trails and promoting trail use throughout Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley. CORBA works with government land managers and private landowners to provide trails for mountain biking, hiking, trail running, snowshoeing and other silent sport activities. Learn more at corbatrails.org.
IMBA Trail Solutions is an international leader in trail development, having created the best practices that guide industry professionals and land managers around the world. Over the past two decades, they have worked on more than 750 trail projects worldwide.
What is meant by “improving the trails”?
Currently, the trail system at the Wells is a spider web of unmarked and unorganized trails. Many of these were created with little or no forethought, maybe by resident animals, beeline routes between points of interest, or the elements. These types of trails often lead to erosion, disturbance of wildlife, confusing intersections, and offshoots to nowhere. Using established trail design principles to modify and manage the trails will allow for easier navigation, a more harmonious balance with nature, reduced erosion, and a better overall user experience.
Neighbors have been using the Wells trails for decades. Why not just leave the park the way it is?
Silent sports like hiking, trail running, mountain biking, and cross country skiing are growing in popularity, and getting people active in the outdoors is proven to improve both physical and mental health. The trails at the Wells have the potential to improve the quality of life for folks in our community beyond the immediate neighborhoods, but lack of awareness or confidence in navigating the trails prevents many from using them. This project would create a more welcoming and enjoyable experience at the Wells for all.
How will this project help people navigate the park easier?
Based on a survey of the current trail system, there are over 137 trail intersections at the Wells and no maps or navigational signage available to users. Imagine the difficulty of trying to find your way through a hundred intersections in the woods without a map! CORBA’s plan to improve the trails will reduce the number of intersections to less than fifty, while still adding to the total miles of trail available. CORBA will also create maps of the system and install map signage at trailheads and key intersections.
What is the timeline for this project?
Beginning in spring 2024, maps and signage will be placed strategically throughout the park, and improvements will begin on existing trails, as needed. In late 2024 and early 2025, new trail builds will take place.
There are trails nearby at Pinehurst Park and Northwest Park. Why add trails at the Wells?
First, CORBA isn’t adding a new trail system, as there are already about 15 miles of trails at the Wells being used for walking, biking, and XC skiing. This project just aims to improve and maintain the trails to provide for a better user experience.
Second, the gentler terrain at the Wells provides a more beginner-friendly or casual experience than the somewhat more rugged terrain at Northwest Park and downhill-style biking at Pinehurst.
Finally, the Wells’ is within walking or biking distance to several family neighborhoods. This kind of access to green space improves the quality of life for the nearby community.
Will this project affect the cross country ski trails at the Wells?
No, the ski trails will be unaffected and will continue to be maintained and groomed by the City of Eau Claire. Improved singletrack trails might even lead to better skiing, as hikers and bikers opt to use them rather than the groomed ski trails.
Will there be big bike jumps and drops, like there are at Pinehurst Park?
Nope. Pinehurst has been developed by the organization Outdoor More to cater to mountain bikers looking to get big air and ride fast, technical, downhill trails. It offers a very different style of riding than the milder, less-extreme experience at the Wells.
My yard borders the park. Will this project increase the chance of people trespassing on my property?
Just the opposite. By installing maps and signage and improving navigation, fewer users will be led astray onto private property.
Will more users mean more trash, vandalism, and other nefarious activities?
Parks that get used for legitimate purposes are typically used less for illegitimate purposes. In other words, the good apples help keep out the bad. Plus, organizations that maintain the trails often perform and encourage litter pick-up. Lowes Creek County Park is a great example. Prior to mountain bike trails being built at that park, it was a haven for dumping of old appliances and other garbage. CORBA removed several trailer loads of junk in those early days, and Lowes has remained clean and cared-for since.
Will there be enough parking for the increase in trail users?
Parking is more than adequate for current users – more than at several of CORBA’s other trail systems, in fact – and needs aren’t expected to grow dramatically. As more of a neighborhood trail system than a destination one, many Wells users will be traveling to the park by bike or by foot, especially with the recent addition of the paved trail along Riverview Dr.
Will my favorite trails be closed?
Many of the existing trails will be untouched or minimally modified by this project, and none of the ski trails or double track (trails wider than a few feet) will be affected at all. The few sections of trail that are removed will have an alternative trail in the same vicinity.
Will more trails disturb wildlife and the park’s natural feel?
One of CORBA’s goals is to help people experience the benefits of nature and the outdoors, so it would be counterintuitive to have too many trails. In fact, once the project is complete, there will be fewer miles of trails in the park; not more.
Will more mountain biking at the Wells make the trails more dangerous?
Mountain bikes are already present at the Wells, and as the sport grows, mountain biking will increase with or without this project. By improving sightlines, educating users about right-of-way, designing better intersections, and other trail management techniques, we can actually make the trails safer for users. Additionally, mapped trails will help first responders locate trail users in cases of medical emergency.
Will more traffic on the trails increase erosion?
IMBA and CORBA, the organizations partnering in this project, design and build trails using the same long-established principles as those that guide the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Sustainability and erosion control are the top priorities when laying out any of our trails, and much of the work put into this project will be to make the trails less prone to erosion from users and the elements.
Are my taxes being used to pay for this project?
No. The initial planning and design was paid for by a grant from the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and by CORBA. Trail construction will be performed by volunteers and paid for by CORBA event and membership proceeds and private donations.
Will I still be able to walk my dog off-leash?
Eau Claire ordinance states: “All dogs, cats or other domestic animals shall be kept on a leash no longer than eight feet at all times when off the premises of their owners.” This has applied and will apply to the Wells property, regardless of this project.
Will walkers be allowed to use the mountain bike trails?
Definitely. Just like CORBA’s other trails throughout the Chippewa Valley, those at the Wells will be multi-use trails open to all in the spring, summer, and fall. In the winter, when there’s snow on the ground, some trails will be groomed specifically for fat-tire biking and snowshoeing. Walkers without snowshoes will be asked to stay off of those, but will still have access to miles of other Wells trails.
Will heavy machinery be used to build trail and disturb the park’s peace and quiet?
New trail will be built a small section at a time, using a combination of hand tools and small, mechanized equipment. Unless you’re right nearby, you may not even realize when the work is going on.
How many trees and how much vegetation will be removed for the new trails?
As trail users and nature lovers, CORBA seeks to minimize its effect on the landscape. Finding ways around trees when building trail is far less labor-intensive than removing them, and it makes for more fun and interesting end results. Therefore, very few standing trees will be removed, and nearly no trees more than six inches in diameter.
As for ground vegetation, the initial width of new trails will be roughly two-to-three feet wide. This will be exposed dirt. After the first year or two, surrounding vegetation will grow back in, leaving a trail bed of 18-24” in most places.
What will happen to sections of trail that will be closed off?
Closing off trail sections is usually more involved than just dragging some logs across the entrance. In most cases, CORBA volunteers will use a technique called “reclamation” to essentially return old trails to nature. This involves breaking up the trail tread, blocking sight lines, and covering with leaves and other organics from the surrounding forest. Sometimes, native species are planted over the old trail. If done properly, any evidence of the reclaimed trail is gone within just a few years.
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Draft Concept Plan
To view the most recent Draft Concept Plan, click here