MANITOWISH WATERS, Wis. — The Department of Natural Resources is delaying the construction of a bicycle trail and bridge over the Manitowish River in Vilas County after facing criticism.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ( reports that department officials announced last week that they’ve been moving too quickly and misjudged the public’s feelings about plans to create a 4-mile asphalt trail in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest in Manitowish Waters.

The privately funded project is estimated to cost more than $1 million and has the backing of one of Gov. Scott Walter’s biggest financial supporters, Pleasant Prairie-based Uline Corp. President Elizabeth Uihlein.

A spokesman for Uihlein said last week that she doesn’t have any direct involvement in the project.

Still, Uihlein has said she will help to pay for the trail and she has made it clear to local officials that she expects the trail to be built. In an email to Manitowish Waters board members last month, she criticized them for “stirring up trouble that will only end up delaying the inevitable.”

Uihlein’s donations in the town with a population of less than 600 have totaled more than $6.5 million since 2007.

“Half of the town loves her for what she does and half of the town wants her to put her nose someplace else,” said Karen Dixon, chairwoman of the North Lakeland Discovery Center, a 66-acre nature and education center.

A segment of the bike trail would come close to the Discovery Center’s hiking trails, and Dixon and others at the nature center are worried about user conflicts and potential environmental harm.

“I am concerned that the DNR didn’t tell us anything,” Dixon said. “We didn’t know anything about this — and they have been working on this for six months or longer.”

Paul Frautschi of Madison, who owns nearly 12 acres along the river, is pleased the DNR put off the project, but worries Uihlein and her allies will resurrect it.

“I don’t want to see bicycle helmets going by,” he said. “I don’t want to see anything happen to that river.”

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,

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