The Public Works Committee for the City of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, knew they had a sticky situation on their hands when the Rotary Club asked for a 10-year permit to use a key section of the Evergreen Park ski trail for their Making Spirits Bright holiday lights display. So the Public Works Committee put the issue to the cross-country skiers and Rotary Club members asking them to forge a compromise. 

The Making Spirits Bright program features a drive-through display of Christmas tree lights. Approximately 15,000 cars drove through Evergreen Park between November 15 and December 15. And visitors donated more than 40,000 items for the local food bank last year. 

The now withdrawn Rotary Club proposal asked to expand Making Spirits Bright through mid-January, which could have impacted a third of the ski season. The lighted ski trail loop is the only drivable loop for the Making Spirits Bright program and is too narrow to accommodate both skiers and cars.

The Sheboygan skiers led, by Jim Van Akkeren, had several meetings with the Rotary Club and hammered out an agreement before the July 23 deadline. Included in the agreement is the development of a new trailhead and bridge to bypass the road which is used for Making Spirits Bright. Further enhancements may include an additional lighted trail area.

Mayor Mike Vandersteen was generally pleased with the solution. “It address most of the concerns out there. It’s a reasonable solution for skiing and gives the Rotary Club more time in the park and allows their project to grow,” he said. Vandersteen was a member of the group that developed the ski trails in 1980.

Van Akkeren is taking a wait and see approach. “It doesn’t resolve the issue, but it puts us on a path that could resolve the issue,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done to make sure this plan works out. The Sheboygan skiers have concerns about potential trail routing, city responsibilities and funding for the bridge.” 

If all the details can’t be worked out, Van Akkeren said his group will ask that the Making Spirits Bright program end by the third week of December so early season skiing will be viable in Sheboygan.