Maintenance and Rehabilitation


Ice Age Trail - Wisconsin

Working Through the Glacial Terrain; photo by Dave Caliebe

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a thousand-mile footpath that wanders thru remote sections of Wisconsin's "Blue Hills"

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a thousand-mile footpath that weaves through forests, monadnocks, prairies and glacial formations across Wisconsin. One of the wildest and most remote sections of the trail is in what early settlers called the “Blue Hills” of rural Rusk County in the northwest part of the state. The roots of this ancient mountain range provide a stunning backdrop for the Trail.

Thanks to funding from the RTP Grant program, the Ice Age Trail Alliance (Alliance) succeeded in maintaining and significantly upgrading nearly 20 miles of the Ice Age Trail. The “Mobile Skills Crew” program of the Alliance brings state of the art trail design, construction and stewardship resources to bear where local volunteer capacity is not sufficient to address trail needs. Local volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder with statewide volunteers to construct a 20-foot clear span bridge, 140-feet of elevated boardwalk, 1.6 miles of new Trail and repair an additional four bridges and boardwalks. The result is a safer, more hiker- friendly footpath.

Moving Boardwalk Frames by Boat; photo by Dave Caliebe

Moving Boardwalk Frames by Boat; photo by Dave Caliebe

Completed bridge; photo by Dave Caliebe

Completed bridge; photo by Dave Caliebe

Contributions of volunteers and youth

Volunteers removed rocks and other impediments within the trail way to make it easier to maintain in the future. The upgraded signage brought this section up to statewide standards and gives comfort to hikers through the big woods and maze of logging and ATV roads. Youth involvement and community outreach were important components in the project’s success.

Five school districts participated, bringing students of all ages out for service learning and to gain a deeper understanding of and connection to the Ice Age Trail and the surrounding environs. The project reached out to the entire Village of Weyerhaeuser through direct mailings to inform residents about the project and the great resource the Trail is for recreation in their backyard.

Young men in the Boy Scouts of America “Order of the Arrow” program helped put the finishing touches on a half mile of new trail. The project supported local communities by purchasing food for volunteers, lumber and other supplies locally. A 2012 study found the Ice Age Trail contributes $112 million to the Wisconsin economy yearly.

Construction and design

Through design and sustainable construction techniques, users now enjoy a new Trail instead of walking down a county highway. The 20-foot bridge replaced a non-compliant bridge that was canted and near the end of its useable lifespan.

The remote location of the bridge necessitated creative thinking to transport lumber and tools. Adjacent Hemlock Creek provided the perfect avenue. Lumber, including 20-foot laminated stringers, were floated downstream by an armada of boats and canoes, captured at shore, then finely assembled and crafted by dedicated volunteers.

The $45,000 RTP grant was matched by 200 volunteers who pitched in nearly 6,000 hours of work, plus local businesses that provided food and other services; and funds, equipment, and leadership from the Ice Age Trail Alliance. The Rusk County Forestry Department contributed equipment and workers to remove garbage, old signs and posts and to ferry equipment and lumber through areas otherwise inaccessible by vehicle.

High Looking Over Their Work; photo by Dave Caliebe

High Looking Over Their Work; photo by Dave Caliebe

Outcomes and statistics for the project

  • 200 volunteers provided 5,960.5 hours
  • Engaged students and staff from the Bruce, Baraboo, Barron, Chetek and Lodi school districts
  • BSA “Order of the Arrow” participants lent a hand for two days
  • 19 miles of trail were mowed
  • Six miles of intensive chainsaw work was performed to clear down and hazard trees
  • Upgraded trail signage for 14 miles, including blazes and regulatory use signage to National Scenic Trail Standards
  • Built and installed two informational boards and road crossing signs
  • Constructed a 20 foot clear-span bridge with elevated approach ramps and handrail system
  • Built a 140-foot elevated boardwalk
  • Crafted three-quarters of a mile of new trail and reopened 1.8 miles of trail
  • Built eight multi-course rock walls totaling 100 linear feet
  • Repaired four bridges/boardwalks


The Blue Hills harbors a wealth of natural beauty, enjoyed by hikers, backpackers, birders, fishermen and hunters alike. The upgraded Ice Age Trail promotes greater use by these groups, enhancing the local economy and bringing greater awareness and appreciation of the Trail.

More winners of this award

2023: Royal Palm Beach Pines Trails System

2021: Statewide Fourteeners Maintenance

2021: Neahkahnie Mountain to Manzanita Trail

2020: Cal-Ida connector Trail

2019: Stage Coach Trail Improvements - Vermont

2018: Horseshoe Bend Park Trail Restoration - New Jersey

2017: Alaka'i Swamp Trail - Hawaii

2016: Cochran Mill Park Trail - Georgia

2014: Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area - Pennsylvania

2014: Sawyer Trail Project/Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area - Louisiana

2013: Northern Erie Sno-Seekers Trail Grooming - New York

2012: Lombard Trail - Idaho

2011: Musselshell Trail System - Idaho

2010: Rampart Range OHV Development (Phase Three) - Colorado

2009: Kings Campground and Trailhead Project - California

2008: Storms' Crossing - Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Trail - South Dakota

2007: Cary Bayou Trail - Texas

2006: Wyoming State Trail Crew

2005: Kerby Peak Trail - Oregon

2004: Teton Wilderness Maintenance and Rehabilitation Projects - Wyoming

2003: Wayehutta ATV Trail System - North Carolina