Morton Forest County Park offers acres of tranquility for future generations

Posted by Samantha Haas on Sunday, October 15th, 2017 at 10:52am.

The curvy, hilly route from Madison to Mazomanie is a good indicator of the terrain you can explore at Dane County's newest park, Morton Forest.

Opened to the public October 16, 2016, it is located at 5169 Reeve Road on nearly 114 acres in the Driftless Area with about two miles of year-round hiking trails and views of Blue Mound, the highest point in the region.

What was once private land and a cabin used for family gatherings is now a managed forest and nature center for future generations to enjoy. And it's all thanks to a generous and selfless act by the benefactor the forest is named after: Steve Morton.

Last year Morton was featured on the PBS program Outdoor Wisconsin, during which he said he inherited the land in 1982 and never intended to sell it to make a profit. Rather, he wanted to share the beautiful property with everyone.

"In addition to the crowding and lack of space, overpopulation also causes a greater gap between the rich and the poor, so it becomes even more necessary I think for people to give land for the public," Morton said. "I'm glad (people are) enjoying it. That's the purpose of it."

The Wisconsin State Journal reported that Morton created a $230,000 permanent Morton Forest Endowment with the Madison Community Foundation to ensure that future maintenance and operation costs would be covered.

At both scenic overlooks you'll also find timber-frame shelters, which Morton donated $15,000 to have constructed.

"The views will be gorgeous this fall," Bill Lunney, chair Friends of Dane County Parks Endowment and Dane County Park Commission, said, adding that the park is "majestic." (Pictured below: Bill Lunney and Steve Morton at the Parks & Trails Unite Festival Preview September 20, 2017.)

Sara Rigelman, Dane County Parks acquisition and planning specialist, said Morton Forest will not be developing a campground or having active recreation uses. Instead, you're more likely to find people hiking, birdwatching, and snowshoeing.

"This is really meant to be a very kind of quiet, peaceful place where people can come and escape their city life or hectic lives and really have a relaxing, calm experience," she said.

On a recent fall afternoon, walnuts dropped with a thud and leaves fluttered to the ground along the walking paths, which can be steep in places. The only other movement came from the wildlife that call the trees, rock outcrop, and forest floor home.

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