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Sunday, April 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Overcast
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Dane County Board again tries to buy 'critical' piece of Ice Age Trail
Offer for land has come down, saving county half a million

Fifty-five miles of the trail stretches through Dane County.
Fifty-five miles of the trail stretches through Dane County.
Credit:Ice Age Trail Alliance
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Dane County has renegotiated buying land for the Ice Age Trail, saving more than half a million over last year's asking price.

The Board of Supervisors will introduce a motion at Thursday's meeting to buy 131 acres in Cross Plains from Carter Hudson LLC at $20,000 an acre or a total of $2.6 million.

Last year, the board rejected buying 137 acres at $23,375 an acre, or a total of $3.2 million, in part because owner Janice Faga had paid only $11,000 an acre for the land in 2005. The new price is $582,000 cheaper than last year's proposal.

Supv. Dianne Hesselbein, a member of the economic development committee, says "Sometimes you have to walk away from the table. Because of a down economy, we need to get good deals and this is an important one for the state."

"[Faga] decided to come down," Hesselbein says of the negotiations. "Which is good because we save money, but also we're able to do other conservation efforts. $600,000 is a lot of money."

The board expects to be reimbursed by the Department of Natural Resources by about $12,000 per acre, helping to pay for the land. Pending approval by the full board next month, the county would pay for the land out of its Conservation Fund.

If the deal is completed, it would leave the fund at $3.8 million, Hesselbein says.

First proposed in the 1950s and authorized by Congress in 1980, the Ice Age Trail is 1,000 miles long and runs along the terminus of the state's last glaciation, which retreated about 10,000 years ago.

The trail passes through a hodgepodge of land owned by the DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, Ice Age Trail Alliance, as well as private land and land owned by local governments. Only about half of the trail is currently on protected land. Fifty-five miles of the trail stretches through Dane County, with only about 25 miles of it protected, says Gary Warner, a volunteer with Dane County chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

Warner says the Cross Plains segment is "the centerpiece of the trail in Dane County." On it, you can dramatically see the difference between the land that was under glacier and that wasn't.

"What you also have at that particular site are the dramatic effects of the erosion of the melt water, how that carved canyons and glens in the hills and landscape," he adds. "It's really one of the critical places to be able to give a good interpretation of the effects of the glacier on Dane County and Wisconsin."

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