Schmeeckle Reserve is now more accessible for people of all abilities, thanks to a fundraising project completed by the Friends of Schmeeckle earlier this fall.
A new accessible fishing pier and resurfaced Lake Loop Trail were dedicated Sept. 29. The new pier extends 70 feet into the lake, offering outstanding views, access to deeper water for fishing and an easy way to launch canoes and kayaks. The one-mile trail around the lake is now covered in crushed granite, which requires less long-term maintenance and is wheelchair accessible.
The Friends group began fundraising for the pier in 2021, with local donors offering support for the materials. Trail improvements were completed first, and work on the pier was completed this fall.
“We were surprised at how quickly we were able to fund and complete the dock, pier and crushed gravel projects,” said Jerry Lineberger, Friends president.
Friends group volunteers gave hundreds of hours to the construction of the railings, decking and ramp, he said. The construction and installation of a metal frame and supports for the pier were donated by Prime W.A.T.E.R. Anglers, a local nonprofit that also created a boat landing dock on the Wisconsin River at Bukolt Park in Stevens Point. Schmeeckle Reserve student staff designed, constructed and installed “fish cribs” beyond the dock to provide a welcoming habitat for lake fish.
The pier has been on reserve’s wish list for some time, as it gives families a way to fish in deeper water, said Lineberger. It was also encouraged by Alan Engebretson, a Friends member who uses a wheelchair. Engebretson helps make sure Schmeeckle Reserve remains accessible by letting the group know where work is needed, Lineberger said. “He’s been so supportive of this project.”
Both projects create a more enjoyable visit to Schmeeckle Reserve for the 90,000 students and community members who use the Lake Loop Trail each year, he said. “We want to make sure that people of diverse abilities have access to the beauty this natural area has to offer.”
The more accessible Lake Loop Trail will be lit by torches for the annual Fall Candlelight Hike held Friday, Oct. 28. Other shorter trails will have both torches and jack-o-lanterns to guide the path.
Schmeeckle Reserve is a field station of UW-Stevens Point, operated by the College of Natural Resources to protect and restore ecosystems, serve as an outdoor classroom for learning and provide outdoor recreation opportunities.
The Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve is a nonprofit organization that engages the community in support of the reserve through programs, outreach, land management and fundraising. Learn more at https://friendsofschmeeckle.org.