Village addresses water issues

An aerial drone shot of Lake Barney depicts how water overflow affected the Rotary Bike Trail in 2018.

For the first time in three years, the Rotary Bike Trail is set to open this week.

That’s because dry weather conditions have allowed the Village of Oregon public works department to place and compact gravel on formerly flooded parts of the trail to make it usable again, director Jeff Rau told the Observer in a Monday, May 7, email.

“I drove the entire (trail) route last week and was very pleased to see that Lake Barney has receded enough this year to where only small sections of the path remain underwater by about 4-7 inches,” Rau wrote. “This is very encouraging because these same sections of the path were at one time nearly 20-24 (inches) underwater.

Lake Barney, which sits near the top of the Badfish Creek Watershed, grew from the 32-acre body it was 33 years ago to around 800 acres during times of heavy rains, which has caused problems for Oregon and Fitchburg residents in the last couple of years.

And besides the individual costs to keep the water at bay, the watershed’s glacial kettle has also put pressure on its water table, causing fields to flood and drowning out the roots of trees that predate the Revolutionary War.

Flooding has not only caused issues for the Rotary Bike Trail, but also for Netherwood Road. It closed down several times within the last few years.

Much of 2021 has seen drier weather, Rau said, allowing for the lake to evaporate and infiltrate enough to make room for repairs.

But the fixes are temporary, Rau wrote, as the village continues to look for long term solutions for the path, including routing the lowland sections to higher ground, as well as a joint project with the City of Fitchburg to maintain the lake’s water levels.

“The important thing for us to concentrate on right now is to get a path that is usable even though it will be gravel in sections,” Rau wrote. “The closure of the sections of the Rotary Trail have been a frustrating thing for the village, as well as the many residents who use the path on a regular basis.”

For more information about Rotary Bike Trail improvements, email Rau at

News editor Kimberly Wethal contributed to this story.

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

Emilie Heidemann joined Wisconsin Media Group in 2018, where she serves as the community and business editor for four publications, as well as a quarterly magazine. Emilie covers the Village of Oregon and Fitchburg community beat.