It all began with occupants of the Portage County Business Park expressing interest in getting connected — literally — with bike and pedestrian paths. Notes Jeff Schuler, Portage County Planning and Zoning Director, “People came to us looking for better choices for getting around in the Business Park. They wanted paths that would allow them to get out and about during the workday, as well as allow them to commute on foot or bike. From there,” notes Schuler, “the idea gained momentum.”
The idea has since morphed into a county-wide initiative to plan for bike and pedestrian facilities. The initiative is funded by a $120,000 reimbursement grant awarded to Portage County by the State of Wisconsin. “The basic idea is to improve general circulation in Portage County by providing people with bike and pedestrian options that provide them with safe routes to urban and rural communities, schools and work. We also have numerous recreational sites in Portage County and we hope to connect these far-flung parks and lakes.”
It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense. According to the “2011 Wisconsin Bicycling Benchmarking Report” Stevens Point had the largest percentage share of bicycle commuters in the state — yes, greater than both Madison and LaCrosse. “It’s an idea inspired by people in our community — it’s really their idea,” adds Schuler. “And we’re finding the greater community is very exited about the possibilities. People want accessibility. They want safe paths they can take with their children. Bike groups are eager for new avenues. Commuters like alternative modes of transportation. And in this economy, it makes sense to find more cost-effective modes of transportation. People are encouraged by the new sense of connectivity — one which also promotes health and wellness,”
Portage County will be partnering with experts who specialize in assessing streets and routes, noting linkages and identifying key routes that will be safe for all travelers.