Rib Mountain master plan could be reviewed by Natural Resources Board this year

Rib Mountain Master Plan DNR Northcentral Technical College

Last month the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released a draft plan of the revise Rib Mountain Master Plan that documented what the future of Rib Mountain State Park could look like. 

Thursday evening hundreds of residents got a look at further details of what that could look like. And, DNR sources tell City Pages, a revised version of that plan could be in front of the deciding body by early next year. Or even this year yet. “We’re working as fast as we can to get it done,” DNR Lead Planner John Pohlman. 

Pohlman and Rib Mountain State Park Manager Bayli Christorf provide a roughly 45-minute presentation on the new plan. It include adding gravity and flow mountain biking trails, a multi-use path around the perimeter of the park, new hiking trails and about 100 acres of expanded ski area for Granite Peak. It also includes clear markings for top rope and bouldering climbing, snowshoeing, a nature center addition and even calls for expanding the park itself, particularly as a means to try to connect it with Nine Mile Forest. 

How the Rib Mountain Master Plan situation evolved

For context, the process began back in late 2014 when Granite Peak owner Charles Skinner announced the need for expanded ski runs, particularly adding more intermediate and beginner runs to draw more visitors. Skinner at the time said that the expansion was necessary or the ski area might not be able to survive. 

That was eight years ago. Granite Peak revised plans several times after a movement called Leave Rib Mountain Alone gained momentum. Particularly unpopular was the expansion into the Turkey Vulture trails along Grouse Lane. They’re popular hiking and snowshoeing spots. The master plan, in fact, calls for a parking lot and trailhead area to help relieve congestions.

Eventually in 2019 instead of approving an amendment to the master plan to allow the expansion, the DNR decided to revise at the master plan in its entirety, to explore the entire gamut of potential recreation and match it better to the activities that most people are interested in. The draft master plan released last month is supposed to reflect that. 

The proposed ski area expansion is less than what Granite Peak originally proposed. The plan also included a report by SE Group showing that in the near future because of climate change the effective ski season will change from five months currently to more like three months. 

Meanwhile, there could be as many as 20 miles of mountain biking trails on the mountain. The plan identifies Mountain biking as a possibility on every area of the mountain to some degree, but how much is yet to be determined. Professional trail builders will construct those trails, like the trails in the area so far have been, Christorf explained. 

Read more: The quiet rise of mountain biking