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City, County Commit to Leveraging Ice Age Trail Resources

October 21, 2021

Author:  
Kevin Passon

Source:  
Antigo Daily Journal

Antigo and Langlade County, “The County of Trails,” are building on their natural resources, with an aim of bringing in more hikers, walkers, and Ice Age Trail enthusiasts to the city and surrounding communities.

Now that Antigo is an official Ice Age Trail Community, a variety of city and county officials, Langlade County Historical Society members, and Ice Age Trail volunteers and staff members gathered Wednesday to mark the designation and celebrate the new Welcome Center at the museum.

“What a great trail community. This is what it really is about,” said Luke Kloberdanz, director of philanthropy with the IAT Alliance. “Our purpose in having a trail community program is to create destinations for the thousands and thousands of people that use the trail every year.

“There are 2.3 million people that actively use the Ice Age Trail, and we want to send them here, along with our trail communities. With this designation, we really want to promote the best of Antigo. We want to send people here.”

The new Welcome Center, operated through the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC) provides guests and tourists a physical space to gather information about the community and the trail. Its construction was part of a massive renovation effort at the museum.

“The historical society has been a true partner in regards to helping us with design and kind of bringing everything together,” said Angie Close, executive director of the LCEDC. “It’s been a great collaborative project.”

Lisa Haefs, one of the museum directors, said the renovation project went down many avenues before a decision was made to add the north wing that houses the Welcome Center.

“Antigo is … the most generous community I have ever seen. Every time that we have asked for help from the community … the community supports us,” she said. “The (Deleglise) cabin, all those years ago when they saved it, it was the first saved original historic building in Wisconsin.”

She praised everyone involved with the renovation project, the Welcome Center and IAT Community designation.

“It helps us in so many ways,” Haefs said of the agreement with LCEDC to house the Welcome Center. “It helps with cash flow. It helps preserve a future for this building. It helps preserve a future for the history of Antigo.”

The Ice Age Trail Alliance has established the Ice Age Trail Community program, designed to help communities leverage the trail as an economic and social engine, while promoting the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to community members and visitors alike. Commitment to this program represents an agreement to cross promote one another, building healthy and vibrant communities.

Antigo is the most recent addition to the Ice Age Trail Community roster.

Kloberdanz said the IAT Alliance has created set of itineraries for hikers across the state, established a fourth-grade program to get students on the trail, and shared backpack of information for patrons of the Antigo Public Library.

“It really is a joint effort in sharing the highlights of both of us,” he said about the designation. “We see this as a partnership, so when people come here, they know they are in a trail community.”

He also gave thanks to the local volunteers who have been on the ground for many years to purchase land for the trail and maintain it regularly. Now, the IAT Alliance will help with that.

“We’ve already been putting resources into Langlade County, and we intend to put in quite a few more in the coming years.”

Antigo resident and longtime trail supporter Joe Jopek said the local chapter has been involved with the IAT Alliance since 2014. He said supporters donated the first $10,000 to purchase local trail land.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it for 49 years without the efforts of volunteers,” he said. “I call them trail angels.”

When complete, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail will cross about 132 communities in 31 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. Along the way, the trail takes users to some of the best glacial features in the world, provides opportunities for personal rejuvenation, is an outdoor classroom and is an economic resource for communities.

The Ice Age Trail, one of only 11 National Scenic Trails, is a 1,000-mile footpath highlighting Wisconsin’s world-renowned Ice Age heritage and natural resources.

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