When my 16-year-old daughter and I went on one of
our weekly outings last summer, we hopped on our
bikes in Verona, Wis. (population 10,600) and pedaled 13 miles on the Military Ridge Trail to Mount
Horeb (population 7,500) for an early dinner at the
Grumpy Troll Restaurant. Then, as the sun set, we
cruised back on the old Chicago and North Western
That ride is repeated thousands of times each summer
on the 40-mile-long trail near Madison, Wis., and hundreds of thousands of times each year on other trails
around the country, pumping millions of dollars into
According to the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation, cycling
boosts the Badger State’s economy by a whopping $1.5
billion annually through tourism, recreation, retail and
manufacturing, providing more than 13,200 jobs.
It brings in $535 million in tourism dollars from out-of-state visitors alone, and it all started when Wisconsin
built the Elroy-Sparta Trail back in 1967 on an abandoned Chicago and North Western rail bed. Since
then, the state has spent more than $240 million on
Bill Kalscheur, treasurer of the Friends of the Military
Ridge Trail and a former grocery store owner in Mount
Horeb, estimates that more than 100,000 people ride
the trail that cuts through his town each year.
“Mount Horeb and the Grumpy Troll are a big destination for a lot of the riders, too, but businesses in the
towns of Verona, Riley and Blue Mounds also benefit,”
he said. “It’s a great trail because it connects to Gov.
Dodge State Park, Blue Mounds State Park and there’s
a new spur to Brigham Park.
“We haven’t been able to afford an economic impact
study on the trail, but we know people have moved
here because of the trail and our other assets.”
TRAILS BRING BIG DOLLARS
TO RURAL TOWNS
Military Ridge Trail near Madison, Wis.; Photo by Michael Leland
Photos by Jon Dawson
By Brian E. Clark