Greenville, Wisconsin: Trail Town Seeks to Honor Heritage of Its Open Land

Julius Drive (red line) marks where the Yellowstone Trail passes through the heart of open land in the Greenville area that has been giving way to urban encroachment.

Julius Drive (red line) marks where the Yellowstone Trail passes through the heart of open land — slowly giving way to urban encroachment in Greenville. Click to enlarge Google Earth image.

One of the many great stories along the Yellowstone Trail in Wisconsin is the effort in the Town of Greenville to hang onto the area’s agricultural heritage and its natural lands, with the trail playing a potentially useful part.

John Julius, whose family name graces part of the original Yellowstone Trail — Julius Drive, south and west of the main portion of town — has been among many local residents who have helped put together the Greenville Greenbelt agricultural enterprise area, or AEA. The state-designated area is intended to help eligible landowners  enter into voluntary farmland preservation agreements and collect farmland preservation tax credits.

Julius, who recently took a few minutes off from getting his oat crop planted to discuss the AEA and its relationship to the Yellowstone Trail, has a deep commitment to preserving open space where he grew up, just west of Appleton’s Outagamie County Airport. Julius has the ability to stand at any high point in the county and point out every major landmark and landowner in every direction, with endless stories related to both the people and places.

Now included in those landmarks is a large, yellow-painted boulder at the southern end of Julius Drive which marked the trail in its early days.

This painted boulder, visible at the southen end of Julius Drive on Google Maps' street view, marked the Yellowstone Trail during its early days,.

This painted boulder, visible at the southen end of Julius Drive on Google Maps’ street view, marked the Yellowstone Trail during its early days. Click to enlarge.

Julius can tell a visitor when virtually every road in sight went in, where it leads, what waters its crosses, and where it fits into the history of the region. Julius would most like for future visitors to see more than just residential subdivisions and other results of urban encroachment.

Like-minded families in the area, he says, also want to maintain land ownership for their children and generations beyond. Several of them are talking about ways they might take advantage of the Yellowstone Trail’s passage through the area for attracting visitors.

Julius said the application has been a multi-year process that will result in the setting aside of slightly more than 5,000 total acres into farmland preservation when the process is presumably completed. That is actually among the smaller AEAs in the state, he said, but having at least that acreage means the effort is approaching the critical mass for making a difference in protecting watersheds and open space.


This GIS map shows a different view of urban encroachment in the Greenville region and depicts roughly the same area as the  satellite image at the top of the post. Click to enlarge.

COMM 395/398 students will have the opportunity to work with the Greenville AEA, if they wish, on a final class project that helps with the effort — perhaps with a plan for helping Greenville use the Yellowstone Trail in promotional efforts and community events or programs to attract visitors interested in the trail.

The class syllabus page should have details on this project option by May 1, along with options related to other communities or organizations. Julius said he thinks many area residents will be thrilled to have the opportunity to hear from and even work with UW-Stevens Point students.

“To let everything go into housing is not what some of these folks want to see,” Julius said. “Agricultural and heritage tourism is one of the things that the Yellowstone Trail could provide.”

“And people don’t come to see your housing development. They come to see the barns and the land and the different species living there.”

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