Green Circle/Schmeeckle Reserve Trailhead Project
Green Circle/Schmeeckle Reserve Trailhead will be a hub for outdoor recreation in Stevens Point. The project includes an open-air shelter, gathering plaza, all-season restroom, and overflow parking lot in Schmeeckle Reserve near the visitor center. It will serve as a starting point for visitors to explore the trails and habitats of Schmeeckle and the Green Circle. The trailhead is being funded through a Wisconsin DNR Stewardship Grant and generous donations. No state university dollars are being used for the project.
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Rettler Corporation in Stevens Point donated time to develop the overall site plan for the trailhead (above). They have been hired by Portage County to develop the construction and bid documents, along with overseeing project construction.
Why a Trailhead?
The 27-mile Green Circle Trail is heavily used by residents and out-of-town visitors. Based on studies conducted by Schmeeckle Reserve interns, an estimated 125,000 people use the trail annually. In 2015, about 70% of trail users surveyed were from the local area (within 15 minutes), 22% were from elsewhere in Wisconsin, and 7% were from out-of-state. Despite all the use, the Green Circle does not have a designated trailhead or starting point, which can be confusing, especially for out-of-town visitors. Since Schmeeckle Reserve has a visitor center and free parking, many trail users already start their adventures here. However, when the visitor center is closed, there are few amenities available. An official trailhead provides a comfortable starting point for people to explore the Green Circle and Schmeeckle Reserve.
The trailhead will consist of four enhancements:
1. Menzel Pavilion Shelter
A beautiful, open-air shelter will be built across the trail from the
Pankowski Friends Amphitheater, surrounded by prairie. The shelter will feature seating for about 50 people, with a towering double-sided stone fireplace. A patio on one side of the fireplace provides an outdoor gathering area adjacent to the shelter. Stone columns will hold up a cedar roof with a unique open feel. The structure will be an ideal protected place for picnics, classes, programs, and celebrations.
The John Noel family generously donated $250,000 in funding to build the shelter. Per the Noel family's request, the shelter will be named the
Menzel Pavilion after Roy and Margaret Menzel. Roy was one of the founders of the Green Circle Trail, and both he and Margaret were well-known civic leaders in the Stevens Point community for decades.
Paul Anderson, with
Alliiance architects in Minneapolis, developed the design for the shelter and amphitheater stage, using many of the same elements in both designs.
2. Sentry Gathering Plaza and Kiosk
A circular entry plaza, located adjacent to the main parking lot, will serve as a gathering area and focal point for visitors. The plaza will be made out of decorative concrete. An interpretive kiosk, constructed in the style of the shelter building, will provide information about Schmeeckle and the Green Circle Trail for planning adventures. Shaded sandstone seats around the edge serve as resting areas. A bicycle repair station will be available for last-minute fixes and tweaks.
The Sentry Foundation has generously donated $125,000 in funding to build the plaza area, along with additional funding for other project components. The Sentry golf course, SentryWorld, is located just north of the site.
3. Overflow Parking Lot
With a capacity of 47 cars, the existing Schmeeckle Visitor Center parking lot fills during nice summer days and when there are special programs and events. It is anticipated that the amphitheater and shelter will lead to greater use of the area, requiring additional parking. An overflow parking lot for 60 cars, built to the east of the existing lot, will help relieve this issue. The lot has been designed to minimize impact on the natural landscape. A one-way loop reduces the lot's footprint. It will be surfaced with gravel to allow water to filter down into the ground. A retention pond in the middle of the loop, planted with native wetland vegetation, will catch excessive runoff. Existing trees and shrubs will be protected where possible to provide screening and shade.
4. Restroom Building
A new restroom building constructed near the existing parking lot will provide access to toilet facilities, even when the visitor center is closed. The building will be insulated and heated to be open all seasons. Two lockable all-gender rooms will be convenient for trail users, while providing flexibility for larger programs and events. The design of the building will incorporate elements from the amphitheater and shelter. A standalone drinking fountain will make it easy for trail users to fill their water bottles.
The Green Circle Trailhead project is a unique partnership among several agencies and organizations. It will be a county-built and county-owned facility on state university land.
In 2016, the Green Circle board was approached by a private donor, John Noel, who was interested in funding a shelter for the trail. This idea was built into a larger project to create an official trailhead for the Green Circle. The Schmeeckle Reserve director, in conjunction with the Green Circle board and Portage County Parks director, wrote a
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant through the Wisconsin DNR to fund $370,401 of the project cost. Portage County submitted the application in April 2017. The grant was awarded in May 2018.
Portage County is the fiscal agent for the grant and will coordinate the bidding and construction process. Portage County and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents signed a Construction and Land Use Agreement that allows the county to build on university property. After construction, the county will own and insure the buildings for 25 years (per the grant requirements). Schmeeckle Reserve, part of UW-Stevens Point, will maintain the buildings and pay for all utilities. After the 25-year period, the county will donate the buildings to the university.
Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve and the
Green Circle Trail board contributed substantial funding toward the project, and the groups will assist Schmeeckle Reserve in maintaining and developing the site in the future.
Bidding and Construction
Construction of the trailhead has begun! The
Rettler Corporation in Stevens Point is serving as the project manager. Altmann Construction, based in Wisconsin Rapids, won the bid to serve as the general contractor.
Estimated Timeline for Construction
December 19, 2019: Bids opened
December 2019-February 2020: Bids reviewed, contracts drawn up, approvals through Portage County
February 2020: Altmann Construction selected as the General Contractor for the project
March-April 2020: Tree clearing in the parking lot and restroom areas by Kyle Kluck Excavating
May-November 2020: Construction of project
Spring or Summer 2020: Grand opening (depending on COVID-19)
Donors and Support
A portion of the total project cost,
$370,401, is being supported by a
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant through the Wisconsin DNR. Additional funding and support is being provided by the following generous donors:
- John Noel Family (for the Roy and Margaret Menzel Pavilion)
- John and Dori Jury
- Jerry Lineberger, in memory of Susan Lineberger
- Roy and Margaret Menzel Family
- Timothy L. Taschwer Trust
- Ward and Ramona Wolff
- Hostel Shoppe
- UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources
- Susan Foote-Martin and Mark Martin