By Cynthia L. Miller


BRODHEAD – Begun in 2011, the city’s Pearl Island Project has evolved from the Brodhead Water & Light and the Street Department’s desire to clear the Mill Race and clean the area during spare time and on weekends.

The objective has been and continues to be to increase awareness and accessibility of the general public to this water resource as it exists in the City of Brodhead and surrounding area.

The project includes the city owned park and property off Park Road; the dam and the area between the Sugar River and Mill Race; the Headgates Park; City property along the west side of the Mill Race to the Power House Park, and Putnam Park; and city property along the race from the Power House Park back to the Sugar River.

Much progress has ensued since 2011 thanks to thousands of volunteer hours – 90 percent of the trees that clogged the Race from the Power House Park to the Sugar River at the 11th Street area have been removed. Garbage, brush, dead and dangerous trees along the trail have been cleared; hiking trails have been cleared; piers were replaced; shoreline repairs have been made; message boards were installed; benches were put into place; a pit toilet and shelter house at the Headgates Park were constructed and installed this past winter; trees have been planted and birdhouses were built and erected along the Race.

Much has been accomplished, but there is much more work planned in the future. Among the projects on tap include the construction of a covered bridge spanning the Mill Race at Putnam Park; plans to connect the Sugar River Bike Trail to the Pearl Island bike and walking trail are in progress; another shelter house and pit toilet will be built next to the parking lot off Decatur Road; and a water wheel has been designed and will be placed in the spillway at the Power House Park to generate power to light the trail to County F.

According a 2014 financial report submitted by the Pearl Island Committee to the city council, capital expenditures totaled $28,053.18. Project revenues totaled $150,784. 85, of which $74,687.50 was from grants, and $76,097.35 came from donations. At the end of 2014, the net cost recoverable through Pearl Island stood at $122,731.67.

The city received two grants that ran from Nov. 2, 2012, to June 30, 2015 – a Recreational Trails Grant in the amount of $200,000, and an Urban Rivers Program grant for $149,375. Based upon the progress made on the project and the work yet to be completed, those grants have been extended to June of 2016.

Members of the Pearl Island Recreational Corridor Project meet on the second Tuesday of each month, 5 p.m. at the Brodhead Water & Light Department.