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Guide to the Hixon Forest Trail Committee Records, 1975-1990 MSS 025

Guide to the Hixon Forest Trail Committee Records, 1975-1990

MSS 025

Summary Information

Records, 1975-1990, of the Hixon Forest Trail Committee. The committee builds and maintains the nature trails of Hixon Forest in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and now operates as a committee of the Hixon Forest Nature Center.

Materials include committee administration records such as correspondence, finance, meeting minutes, resolutions, and general committee administration materials. Other materials are general correspondence, historical materials which include newspaper clippings, photos and slides, trail maps, and trail maintenance records.
Collection Title
Hixon Forest Trail Committee Records
Date of Materials
Hixon Forest Nature Center (La Crosse, Wis.). Trail Committee.
Call Number
MSS 025
0.4 cubic feet
General Physical Description note
1 archives box
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Hixon Forest Trail Committee Records, MSS 025, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

The history of the Hixon Forest Trail Committee starts with the establishment of Hixon Forest. Hixon Forest was part of a land grant to Judge George Gale (of Galesville) in 1851. It was transferred to several owners until, in the 1860's, Henry I. Bliss purchased it. Bliss built Bliss road which goes up Grandad's bluff from the east end of Main St. Bliss preserved the land, and, as a letter to the La Crosse Leader-Press in 1909 states, "practically maintained a public park at his own expense..."

In 1909 Bliss's heirs sold the land to a developer who planned to cut timber and quarry the bluff's stone. A group of citizens objected and a fund drive to buy the land, led by Mrs. Gideon C. Hixon, was successful. The group bought the north and west slope of Grandad, including the land that is now Hixon Forest. The land was donated to the city in 1912 and was to be preserved as a park. It was then that the land became known as Hixon Forest.

Unofficial hiking trails existed in Hixon Forest for many years. In 1975, the Chamber of Commerce decided to make some of those trails official and took on trail building as their Bicentennial year project. The La Crosse City Parks Department and the Chamber of Commerce wanted "to develop a worthwhile project to commemorate the nation's 200th birthday" so the Chamber formed the Hixon Forest Trail Committee, with Richard Brindley as chairperson, to oversee the project and to work with the Parks Department in developing the trail. The committee laid out the "Bicentennial Trail" in July 1975, and the volunteer trail building effort began in September 1975.

The formal dedication of the Bicentennial Trail was Sunday, October 10, 1976. It was estimated that $50,000 of donated labor and materials went into the building of the trail with more than 500 volunteers and 25 different organizations taking part, all supervised by the Hixon Forest Trail Committee. The trail was built for hiking, running, and for cross-country skiing in the winter. The trail committee's work was not finished with the building of the first trail. Today there are more than seven miles of hiking trails on 790 acres of forest and remnant prairie land in Hixon Forest. Throughout the years the committee has overseen all the improvements on the trail system in Hixon Forest. Trail work is done by volunteers and CETA paid summer groups. The Parks Department has stayed active in maintaining the trails and providing the building, utilities and maintenance for the Hixon Forest Nature Center. The Hixon Forest Trail Committee now operates as a committee of the Nature Center.

The Hixon Forest Nature Center is housed in a building on the edge of Hixon Forest and used to be a Forest Service Watershed Lab, constructed in 1966 by the Federal Government. The idea of turning it into a Nature Center was proposed when the city took ownership of the building in 1976 after the Federal Government asked to cancel its lease. The idea became reality on May 1, 1983, when the Hixon Forest Nature Center opened its doors, under the direction of the Friends of the Hixon Forest Nature Center. The opening of the Nature Center gave greater visibility and access to Hixon Forest and its trails.

In 1986, the Nature Center hired its first professional naturalist, Erik Alexander. The benefits of a full time naturalist made the Friends of the Hixon Forest Nature Center committed to maintaining a professionally staffed center. Today, with a chief naturalist, executive director, many volunteer naturalists and countless numbers of other volunteers, the Nature Center provides informative, educational and fun programs for people of all ages. The Hixon Forest Trail Committee maintains the trails and markers needed for the Nature Center to provide its many and varied programs.

The Hixon Forest Trail Committee is just a small part of a large organization, consisting mostly of volunteers, and dedicated to preserving and improving Hixon Forest and related areas. The committee strives to present the public with an accessible and well-managed natural area with their trail work in Hixon Forest.

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Scope and Contents

Materials (1975-1990), in this small collection cover the life of the Hixon Forest Trail Committee thoroughly until about 1987 when the records become rather sparse. Materials include committee administration records such as correspondence (1976-1987), which documents much activity between the committee and outside administrative influences and cooperating organizations; finance (1976-1989), which contains very few materials; general records (1978-1986), which includes lists of committee members as well as memos and Chamber of Commerce materials; meeting minutes (1975-1990), probably the most complete and informative group of materials regarding the committee's activities; and resolutions (1976-1988), which contains copies of resolutions pertaining to the committee and the trails of Hixon Forest.

Other materials include general correspondence (1980-1987), which contains a few letters from citizens regarding the trail system; historical materials, which include general materials (1976-1989) and newspaper clippings (1975-1984). A fairly good general history of Hixon Forest and the trail system can be gleaned from these materials. Photos and slides (1976-1985) contains just a few images of the trails and some of the volunteers that worked on them. Most of these images are not dated. The last two groups of materials, trail maintenance and trail maps, give a lot of information about the trails and the continual work done on them. They include plans of work and work reports as well as aerial maps of the area and hand drawn trail maps.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 1993 July

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

Donated by Peg Zappen, March 1993.

(Accession No. 1993.004)

Processing Information

Processed by Carrie Seib, July 1993.

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Related Materials

Related Materials

(MSS 057)
 Hixon Forest Nature Center Records, 1948-1997

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Hixon Forest Nature Center (La Crosse, Wis.). Trail Committee.
  • Hixon Forest Nature Center (La Crosse, Wis.).


  • Nature centers--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Nature trails--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Trails--Wisconsin--La Crosse

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory

Committee Administration 

Box Folder

Correspondence, 1976-1987 

1 1

Finance, 1976-1989 

1 2

General, 1978-1986 

1 3

Meeting Minutes, 1975-1990 

1 4-5

Resolutions, 1976-1988 

1 6
Box Folder

General Correspondence, 1980-1987 

1 7

Historical Materials 

Box Folder

General, 1976-1989 

1 8

Newspaper clippings, 1975-1984 

1 9
Box Folder

Photo/Slides, 1976-1985 

1 10-11


Box Folder

Maintenance, 1976-1989 

1 12

Maps, 1977-1985 

1 13