Response to Proposed Changes to Indian Lake County Park 12/7/23

Date: Wednesday, December 6, 2023  
To: Dane County Parks Commission  
From: Madison Nordic Ski Club (Madnorski)  
Re: August 2023 Indian Lake County Park and Halfway Prairie Wildlife Area Master Plan  

 Madison Nordic Ski Club’s Response to Select Proposed Master Plan Items 

Thanks for time to represent the Madison Nordic Ski Club! Its Board has considered the proposed changes to the Master Plan for Indian Lake County Park and now presents its response. Our club represents over 500 skiers and their families, located all over Dane County. We not only ski, but walk, hike and train on the same trails year-round. Most of these are on public lands and skiers often must pay to ski them, so our Board must express the concerns of its members about changes in location, quantity or quality of such trails in the spirit of supporting the healthy sport of cross country skiing for everyone.    

Our Club welcomes the additions of new land to Indian Lake Park and the expansion of trails for more skiing! As a club we value INCLUSION-for all to seek community outdoors, WELLNESS-through healthy connection to nature, and STEWARDSHIP-for responsible management of all resources–including people, the land, its biota and funding. With these values in mind, we propose changes to some of the master plan that we hope you will consider.   

First, the steep uphill trail proposed for closure in the central part of the park must be kept open unless an alternate ski trail re-connecting the (new) outer loop to the west end of the old ridge trail can be developed.  

Second, our club cannot support the plan to construct a new two-lane road to the rustic cabin, and to relocate trails, build an expensive road bridge, and especially allow massive parking in the woods interior, so we’ll offer an alternate, compromise plan that we can support–if a replacement plan is necessary. At a minimum, the old plan will have detrimental effects on skiers (and many other winter users) due to both habitat degradation from construction work, and especially air and noise pollution from the large volume of cars likely to use such a road in winter. Trail quality will be uncertain. The special remoteness of the cabin area sought by most skiers and others will also be greatly reduced. This plan, at least in its entirety, must be jettisoned.   

As a compromise, we propose changing the two-lane road to a single lane with bike shoulder along the same route, reducing parking to only 3-4 stalls in the cabin vicinity for accessible parking, necessary youth group drop-offs and restroom maintenance only. This, in fact, satisfies all of Park’s most important goals, only making some visitors without disabilities continue to walk the 200 steps from parking lot to cabin hill in exchange for reducing the most negative and unacceptable effects on habitat and skiers in the original Plan through less construction and keeping user pressure and car use to a minimum.   

This compromise plan also requires moving some ski trails, but if properly sited, their quality may remain as good, and Parks has already agreed to work on this with our Club trail staff–a relationship we value highly. A plan for eliminating any need for the proposed expensive bridge by carefully siting a new parking lot outside the woods has already been proposed to Parks staff and should also be strongly considered.  

Third, a carefully sited bike trail across the rest of the park from the cabin area, as Staff have planned, can create new accessibility to nature for all with minimal habitat degradation. We do ask that if adopted, it should cross ski trails only at the safest location(s) for all users (this already acknowledged by Parks staff.) If paved, the bike trail should be a natural surface where it does cross other trails to retain adequate snow for skiing.  

In summary: 

1. Keep open the central uphill trail-ridge connection proposed for closure unless an alternate can be found 

2. If a new road is necessary, keep it one lane plus bike shoulder, greatly reduce parking, and eliminate the new bridge, all to minimize habitat loss and degradation, costs, and maintain quality winter use and accessibility. 

3. A north-south bike trail should be acceptable if it crosses ski trails safely. 

I’m happy to answer questions and explain anything in more detail. Thanks again for this opportunity! 

Brock Woods, Trails Chair
Madison Nordic Ski Club