Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Grand Opening New Sugar River Wildlife Area Trail

June 29, 2017
Josh Wescott 608-266-9069
County Executive

Dane County Executive Parisi Cuts Ribbon for New Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area Trail

Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi cut the ribbon for a new scenic nature trail at the Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area in the Towns of Montrose and Verona. The county finished clearing the final stretch of the nearly two-mile hiking corridor after recently acquiring a new section of surrounding property.


“From fishing and canoeing to camping and hiking, the Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area offers countless possibilities to enjoy this warmer summer weather and make lasting memories while outdoors,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. “This new trail and property acquisition are the latest features Dane County has added to increase the accessibility of Sugar River’s beautiful surroundings and heighten visitors’ experience with the land’s offerings.”


The Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area has 379 acres of land and lies just 14 miles from the Wisconsin State Capitol. It stretches from the intersection of Highway 69 and Sunset Lane in Verona, south to Paoli Road and east to Range Trail. The area’s new, winding trail offers picturesque sights of the Sugar River and greater access to two wooden bridges. Dane County installed the bridges this past winter for safe travel over the river’s rushing waters and better views of the property’s riverfront. In the past, the county constructed north and south parking lots to increase access to the outdoor recreation destination.


The new segment of land connects the Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area’s two separate sections of property, making the corridor’s route from Paoli Road to Sunset Drive possible. The parcel also increases the amount of riverfront offered to the public, formerly estimated to be 2.5 miles in length.


The Southern Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited (SWTU) will have annual volunteer work days at the site to remove invasive species along the corridor. SWTU has also coordinated with Dane County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist with a grassland habitat restoration project at the Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area.


Other key partners involved in caring for the trail and surrounding property include the Sugar River Watershed Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dane County Conservation League, and the Natural Heritage Land Trust.


The property was originally acquired in 2013 when Dane County reached an agreement with the Bruce Company, a plant nursery and landscape service based in Wisconsin, to permanently protect 466 acres of land. The area cost $3,054,000 and was the second largest purchase of property in Dane County’s history. Of the 466 acres of land obtained by Dane County in the agreement, 126 acres were placed in a conservation easement to limit future development.


In 2014, the county formally named the outdoor recreation area after Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and her then Chief of Staff Topf Wells. Both Falk and Wells expanded public outdoor recreational opportunities and made valuable personal and professional contributions to help protect Dane County and Wisconsin’s environment. In fact, during Falk and Wells’ tenure, Sugar River was officially removed from the National Impaired Waters list. It has since become home to numerous species of fish and an excellent location for trout fishing.


In addition to the hiking corridor, Dane County has a long-term goal of developing a bike trail in the Falk Wells Sugar River Wildlife Area. Plans for a surfaced trail to better accommodate the county’s biking population will emerge in the next few years.

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