"And it’s something we can all do together to leave for future generations."
Photos by Megan Monday
Alycann and Pete | Viroqua, WI
Alycann: I grew up outside of Milwaukee. Milwaukee is obviously a city environment, but I still spent a lot of time outdoors. Lots of city parks. And then there was summer camp up north in Minocqua, sleeping in cabins and tents, doing all kinds of activities. For me the importance of the outdoors was really cemented there.
I didn’t really come into the sport of mountain biking until I was an adult in college. I met Pete at the University of Minnesota, and then we moved out west. The big difference growing up in the city and living out west was that we no longer had to drive many miles to access a bike trail. Out west they were right there, and the trail networks were vast.
We decided to move back to Wisconsin to be closer to family once we started having kids. We started thinking, "Well, where do we want to live? What kind of opportunities do we want our children to have?" For us, a lot of that was about access to the outdoors and trails for biking. At that time we thought, "Hey, there’s so much outdoor potential in Wisconsin." So that was a real catalyst for us.
Pete: When we came back to Wisconsin, we chose Viroqua was because it is rich with topography, and that lends itself to different kinds of cycling. We started Bluedog Cycles Brewdog Coffee on Main Street about 10 years ago, and quickly following that we started a volunteer non-profit, Vernon Trails, to start advocating for more outdoor recreation in our area. We wanted access to trails right in our town, so we realized that we had to create them.
Alycann: And we wanted to create not just mountain bike trails, but shared trails. They are for hikers, bird watchers, snowshoers, Nordic skiers…any human-powered person that enjoys outdoor recreation. We wanted these trails to be open and accessible.
When we started, there was not a single mile of shared-use single track in the county. After 10 years, we have collaborated, maintained, created, and opened access to over 50 miles. That’s pretty big for a small town. We’ve done it with a lot of community support. We’ve done it with local leaders, financially contributing. We’ve done it with trail crews working laboriously. It’s not easy to cut new trails. It’s very much been a collaborative effort.
Pete: Our first eight years of trail building were all very grassroots and very volunteer-based. When we met Cyndy, she generously opened up her family’s land, Hubbard Hill’s, to the trail system. I would say we probably put a thousand hours into building and maintaining trails through Hubbard Hills. I would guess that at least 800 of those hours have been logged by people under the age of 15. School groups. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. What’s really cool is our volunteers come from a lot of different generations, and the youth in our community are very involved.
Alycann: Well, and youth is a priority. It’s all about getting kids outside. It’s about unplugging from our digital lives and reducing screen time. The hope is that we leave this legacy of opportunity and access to the outdoors so that kids have a place to be free.
Lucy, Joy and Wilma—the next generation
Alycann: We have 12 miles of trails out in Sidie Hollow, our county park. That park is a gem. It's just a beautiful gem. Now, our dream is to get all the neighboring landowners to open up their land and let us connect trails all the way there. Thanks to Cyndy opening up her chunk of land, her neighbor next to her then opened up their land. In big picture, big dreamland, we'd love to keep connecting. It's a legacy project, you know? And it’s something we can all do together to leave for future generations.