ICORE Proposes trail to Sandy Beach

The ICORE Board sent the following correspondence on August 7, 2019:

ICORE (Iron County Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts)
P.O. Box 685
Mercer, WI 54547

Roy Atkinson, State Trails Council, Bicycling Touring
Sara Pearson, Forest Recreation Superintendent, NHAL State Forest
Phil Rynish, DNR Property Planner, Madison
Craig Dalton, Property Manager for the NHAL

August 7, 2019

Dear Roy, Sara, Phil and Craig,

Our Organization, Iron County Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts (ICORE), is formally requesting that the WDNR designate an abandoned railroad bed that runs from Manitowish, WI, to Powell Rd. in Iron County as a combination seasonal bicycle and hiking trail and a winter snowmobile trail. This approximately 4.7-mile-long rail bed already serves as a winter snowmobile trail, but is gated during the non-winter seasons.

The trail bisects the Manitowish Peatlands for nearly all of its length and would connect to the Sandy Beach Campground, a 33-site campground located along the southeast shore of Sandy Beach Lake, a 110-acre undeveloped lake with a boat landing, a picnic area, and a swimming beach. According to the Biotic Inventory and Analysis of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest (1999) prepared by Wisconsin’s Natural Heritage Inventory Program, Sandy Beach Lake and Bog is one of just 36 areas ranked “high” in the Bureau of Endangered Species (BER) evaluation categories. A “high” ranking is based on the following criteria:

  • the current quality and condition of the natural communities and aquatic features
  • size of the natural community
  • the representation of both rare and characteristic species
  • context of the site
  • the degree of effective protection afforded these natural features statewide

The existing snowmobile trail initially roughly parallels Hwy. 47/182 south from Manitowish, but bears east and away from the highway until it meets Powell Marsh Rd. Highway 47 forms the eastern border of what was historically designated as the 6,324-acre Manitowish River Wilderness Area, now designated as a “Wild Resources Area,” within which is the Frog Lake and Pines State Natural Area. The snowmobile trail runs through the “Lower Manitowish River Macrosite,” one of four macrosites on the NHAL that is also ranked “high” in all of the BER’s evaluation categories. The Lower Manitowish River Macrosite includes the Manitowish River Wilderness Area and the Sandy Beach Lake and Bog. The Macrosite supports a large and wild complex of wetlands, lakes, streams, and forests in the northwestern corner of the NHAL.

The “Manitowish Peatlands” is designated under the current master plan in 2005 as a forest management production area. The proposed bicycle/hiking trail on the existing snowmobile trail would have no impact on forestry resources. However, an appraisal of a topographical map of this specific area under consideration shows it to be nearly all wetland and thus not of significant forestry value. The extensive wild wetlands are the significant ecological concern in having this trail designated for non-motorized use in the non-winter months.

Given the completion last year of the Mercer to Manitowish Waters segment of the 52-mile-long Heart of Vilas County Bike System Trails (https://ironcountyoutdoors.org), and the soon to be completed segment linking the WinMan biking/hiking/skiing trails to the HVCBST, this is an opportunity to link up another segment to this system. The usage on these bike trails has been outstanding, including people of all ages, all sizes, and all physical conditions – the trails have become tremendous assets to every community that they go through. We think this is a natural extension of the trails that will provide additional community-wide value, and it would also serve as a necessary ecological measure to protect the diverse wetlands in the non-winter seasons.

How can we put together a meeting with all of you regarding this proposal?

Thank you for your consideration.


The ICORE Board of Directors:

  • Mike Ondresky – Mercer
  • John Bates – Mercer
  • Bob Traczyk – Hurley
  • Teresa Schmidt – Winchester
  • Diane O’Krongly – Mercer
  • Karen Hagemann – Hurley
  • Ian Shackleford – Hurley

Please see our website https://ironcountyoutdoors.org for further information regarding our organization.