Dane County is taking a step forward in its plan to build a recreation trail connecting Stoughton to Madison.

The county plans to purchase 160 acres in the Door Creek Wildlife Area, near the northern shore of Lake Kegonsa, for the future expansion of the Lower Yahara River Trail, county executive Joe Parisi announced last week.

The property includes frontage on the northern edge of Lake Kegonsa and along Door Creek, a few miles north and west of Lake Kegonsa State Park.

Last fall, the county opened the first phase of the Lower Yahara River Trail, a nearly 2.5-mile segment connecting Lake Farm County Park to McDaniels Park in the village of McFarland. The trail runs alongside a railroad trestle with a mile of continuous bridges and boardwalks on the north shore of Lake Waubesa, and is the longest multi-use boardwalk in Wisconsin.

The county’s long-term goal is to extend the Lower Yahara River Trail south to Viking County Park outside Stoughton. That would allow cyclists and others to use the trail to travel between Stoughton and Madison.

When completed, the river trail will be 11 miles long and is expected to attract thousands of visitors.

“Given the trail’s unique features and connection to the Capital City Bike Trail, it is projected that the Lower Yahara River Trail will see around 150,000 visitors a year,” the county announced in a news release. The area will be open to fishing, hiking, biking and skiing.

The purchase price of the property, from the state Department of Natural Resources, is $232,200, the release said.

The next phase of the trail project will run from Fish Camp County Park to Lake Kegonsa State Park and will include the properties the county plans to buy.

“Since opening the Lower Yahara River Trail last fall, thousands of riders and walkers have enjoyed the scenic boardwalk,” Parisi said in the release. “Dane County has some of the most beautiful natural resources in the country. This new trail will make sure generations to follow can enjoy it.”

The Lower Yahara River Trail project cost is an estimated $8 million. Dane County is paying $3.7 million, and $4.3 million is coming in federal funds, according to the county release.

Contact Bill Livick at bill.livick@wcinet.com