Trail of the Month: June 2001
Elroy-Sparta Trail, Wisconsin
In celebration of National Trails Day on June 2, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has selected Wisconsin's Elroy-Sparta State Park Trail as Trail of the Month for June.
In the late 1960's, when the Chicago and North Western Railroad abandoned the 32-mile corridor between the towns of Sparta and Elroy, many of the local residents of the towns served by this line feared the closure would bring economic ruin. Like many small towns on rail lines, the local residents understood that the rails were the economic livelihood for farmers and factories.
Determined not to fall into economic isolation, the local citizens encouraged the State of Wisconsin to appropriate $12,000 to purchase the corridor in its entirety. A short time after, the track and ties were removed and the corridor was covered in crushed limestone, and in 1971 the Elroy-Sparta rail-trail was opened.
The success of this inexpensive model spawned the growth of numerous other trails in the Upper Midwest, and later, throughout the whole United States. In its beginnings, the Elroy-Sparta rail-trail served as a local way to save this rural corridor and reshape its economic value into a tourist attraction. Today, we recognize the significance of the Elroy-Sparta State Park Trail as one of the earliest success stories of the rails-to-trails movement. In celebration of this rail-trail, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will hold its June 2001 Trailblazer Society Excursion in Wisconsin, so that RTC members can experience this historic trail.