Village address water issues

An aerial drone shot of Lake Barney depicts how water overflow affected the Rotary Bike Trail in 2018. That situation has gotten worse in 2019, and doesn’t look like its going to get any better without intervention.

Despite receiving a $173,536 grant to help fix the partially submerged Rotary Bike Trail, the Village of Oregon is pulling back on reconstruction efforts for now.

The village has been working for almost two years to establish alternative Rotary Bike Trail routes for a reconstructed path on the village’s northwest side. Sections have been underwater that entire time because of record high levels in the Lake Barney area. The trail installation limited the glacial kettle’s ability to drain out through the soil.

High precipitation in the area in recent years has also contributed to the flooding of the trail.

On Monday, Dec. 16, trustees directed public works staff to place repairing the trail on hold pending future developments and options for path improvements. It also terminated an agreement with the Keller Family, which owns land in that area, and will distribute $10,000 in earnest money back to the family, as the original purchase agreement included a deposit in escrow.

Doing so grants the village time to acquire additional funding through grants, borrowing and fundraising, as well as possible land availability, a memo from public works director Jeff Rau states. It says while the village has a good working relationship with the landowners and their representatives in dealing with trail alternatives and routes, negotiations have not yet identified a location and the project is at least $100,000 short of what will be needed.

In the meantime, village staff will install permanent “End of Trail” signs where it is flooded, Rau’s memo explains.

“We look forward to some day in the future when this trail is once again complete and function as a through trail,” Rau writes. “Until that time, we encourage all people to enjoy the remaining portions of the trail as it is a wonderful amenity for our village and area.”

Rerouting the submerged parts of the trail would require additional easements for the Keller and Jenkins families, according to the memo, and the parties involved have been unable to negotiate a location.

“We have expended considerable time and expense to evaluate these options and provide surveyed routes for review and approval,” Rau wrote.

Rau said village engineers don’t believe building the new rerouted path at or near the Lake Barney area is a wise decision because of the high water table that remains there.

The village has planned to borrow $300,000 toward the engineering and reconstruction of the bike trail and secured a $173,536 Trail and Flood Repair Grant through Dane County, making the money available for the project $473,536.

It’s expected to total much more – $597,000, including 2019 engineering expenses, 2019 legal expenses, 2020 estimated engineering and administrative expenses, 2020 estimated legal expenses, 2020/21 estimated construction payments and easement payments.

Email Emilie Heidemann at or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.