If you are looking to avoid the crowds, head to the Pelishek Tiffany Nature Trail in SE Wisconsin. It’s about a 10 minute drive west of Delavan, Wisconsin and just like the White River State trail this is on a track of the Old Milwaukee Railroad line.
The Trail’s Founders
Gerry Pelishek from Darien, purchased the old railroad bed in the early 1990s to create the trail. He and Pete Tiffany, who was an active member of the Clinton Fencehopper’s Snowmobile Club were instrumental in developing the trail together.
In the 80‘s, Pelishek would drive down the abandoned Milwaukee Road railroad bed from his farm north of Darien to his place of business – a jewelry store- in Clinton.
According to Vicky Wedig from Walworth County, Pelishek stated that, “It was starting to become a six-mile-long junkyard.”
People would throw old tires, appliances and other items on the railroad bed to dispose of them. Tiffany, said that people would toss in old tombstones, junk concrete and piles of corn cobs in the bed.
In the 90’s, this old Milwaukee railroad trail was to be sold in parcels because they were having difficulty selling as a corridor. Because Pelishek did not want to see it gone forever, he went to the bank, received a loan for 50k and bought it.
Now that’s initiative and real commitment!
At the same time, snowmobilers statewide were lobbying the state the state Legislature for funding, arguing that snowmobilers contribute significantly to the state’s economy with the amount of gas they purchase. The legislature agreed to contribute a certain percentage of gas taxes toward trail acquisition and organizations could apply for funds.
So Pelishek, Tiffany and the director of the Rock County Parks Department attended a meeting in Wausau in 1994 to ask for funds. Unfortunately, influential snowmobiling groups from Northern Wisconsin also attended the meeting and received the funding instead.
They all came back dissapointed.
Luck was on their side though and the funded project fell through, giving Pelishek and Tiffany the funding they needed. Victory!
Because individuals could not receive the money, Rock County acquired the trail. They county secured funds from the Snowmobile Grant Program and the State Department of Natural Resources’ Stewardship Program to purchase and create the trail in 1995.
All Volunteer Effort
Proudly, property tax funds were not used!
“We’re very proud of that,” Pelishek said. “That whole trail is strictly a volunteer organization.”
To this day, Pelishek said, the trail is maintained by volunteers.
“Pete Tiffany has really shined on that part of it,” he said.
Much of what has been accomplished along the trail – grooming it, landscaping and building shelters and parking areas – was done at little cost by people who “know a guy” willing to donate materials or labor.
“If you work together, there’s always a way to do,” Tiffany said.
Do you have a favorite trail with an interesting story? Let me know here!