History & Awards


Several founders of the Green Circle gather at Al's Diner in Stevens Point
Several founders of the Green Circle gather at Al’s Diner in Stevens Point

A circle of cooperation among communities, corporations, private land owners, and individuals inspired to create a nature trail around the Stevens Point urban area led to what has become The Green Circle.

Community volunteers made the trail a reality

The idea for a trail linking parks with other publicly owned land was conceived by John Jury, a former Stevens Point Parks and Recreation Commission chair. A group of active community volunteers formed the “Passive Exercise Trail Committee” and began meeting weekly in March 1989 to develop a plan. The group included Tom Schrader, Dan Trainer and Bill Werner, who was replaced by Jim Rothenbach when Werner moved from the area. Roy Menzel joined the group and donated proceeds from a book he wrote about Stevens Point to fund the cost of a detailed master plan. George Rogers and Jerry Ernst joined within months. They adopted the name Green Circle by October 1989. With various skills and tireless commitment, these volunteers became an example of teamwork and cooperation that sparked similar efforts in others. They raised money, negotiated with landowners for use of their property, and coordinated placement of the trail.

The trail initially cost $660,000 in 1996 to design and build, not including considerable donated labor and no-cost easements. Funding to create the trail came from many public and private sources. Portage County, the City of Stevens Point, and the Villages of Plover and Whiting contributed. State and federal grants covered about one-third of the cost. Businesses and individuals donated nearly as much.

Members of the Green Circle Committee arranged for easements with private residential and commercial property owners. All agreed to allow a nature trail to cross their land at no cost. Without the generosity and willingness of these 25 property owners, the circle would not be complete.

The Green Circle opened on June 1, 1996, as a 22-mile trail.

Linking parks and green spaces

The Green Circle has continued to grow and evolve since its opening, with several spurs added. The main loop now has 12 contiguous segments and is 27 miles in length. Each segment is named for its proximity to geographic or historical landmarks. Click here to explore the sections of the Green Circle.

The Green Circle links numerous parks and green spaces in the Stevens Point area. For miles, it follows the scenic Wisconsin and Plover Rivers, which are historically significant to the lumber-making pioneer roots of the community. The trail preserves forested land, native plants, wetlands, and wildlife for current and future generations.

Trail thrives with strong partnerships

The trail is maintained by Portage County Parks staff, with assistance from Stevens Point Parks and Schmeeckle Reserve staff. Annual donations from individuals and businesses help with land purchases, trail construction and improvements. Litter pickup is done graciously by several adopt-the-trail groups and service clubs.

The trail is used by all ages and ability levels. UW-Stevens Point and local schools use the trail as a resource for recreation and education. Children cross the Plover River footbridge as a short-cut to school. A Wisconsin Central Railroad underpass off Patch Street on the city’s east side provides a safe, legal crossing for walkers and bikers. In Plover, a spur links with the Tomorrow River Trail, a 29-mile trail to the east along an abandoned railroad grade.

Read “Memories of the Green Circle History”, written by John Jury, who originated the idea of a circular trail in Stevens Point.


Scenic Beauty Award, 2008
Green Circle representatives accept the Scenic Beauty Award in 2008

2008 Scenic Beauty Award

On October 3, 2008, Citizens for a Scenic Wisconsin presented the Green Circle Trail with its 2008 Scenic Beauty Award.  The award recognizes the valuable contributions of government agencies, communities, businesses, institutions, associations, and individuals to preserve and protect our Scenic Wisconsin.

The Green Circle was nominated based on its impact to the attractiveness of the state, its potential to be used as a model by others, its uniqueness and originality, and its support by a diversity of citizens, organizations, and agencies.

2003 Great Lakes Region Partnership Award

On July 26, 2003, the Green Circle committee was awarded with the Great Lakes Region Partnership Award from the National Recreation and Park Association. This award is presented to an organization that has developed a successful partnership to create a project that benefits the community, region, or state and increases awareness of the importance of parks, recreation, and leisure services in quality of life.

1993 Land and Water Conservation Fund Partnership Award

The U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Midwest Region awarded the Green Circle committee its Land and Water Conservation Fund Partnership Award in 1993. This was in recognition of the group’s efforts to create the Green Circle Trail, an outstanding example of the partnership of the public and private sectors to provide high-quality outdoor recreation opportunities for the public in Wisconsin. National Park officials consider it one, and perhaps the only, trail system to completely encircle a community.