The Wisconsin Legislature established the Rustic Roads program in 1973 to help citizens and local units of government preserve what remains of Wisconsin's scenic, lightly traveled country roads.
Unique brown and yellow signs mark the routes of all officially-designated Rustic Roads. These routes provide bikers, hikers, and motorists an opportunity to leisurely travel through some of Wisconsin's scenic countryside. For motorcyclists Wisconsin offers a special Rustic Roads motorcycle award program.
The goals of the Rustic Road program are:
- to identify and preserve in a natural and essentially undisturbed condition certain designated roads having unusual or outstanding natural beauty, by virtue of native vegetation along with natural or man-made features associated with the road.
- to provide a linear park-like system for vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian travel for quiet and leisurely enjoyment by local residents and the general public alike.
- to maintain and administer these roads to provide safe public travel, yet preserve the rustic and scenic qualities through use of appropriate maintenance and design standards, and encouragement of zoning for land use compatibility, utility regulations and billboard control.
Nominate a new Rustic Road
As you drive, hike or bike the Wisconsin countryside, you may discover a road you think should be included in the Rustic Roads program. To qualify for the Rustic Road program, a road must:
- have outstanding natural features along its borders such as rugged terrain, native vegetation, native wildlife, or include open areas with agricultural vistas which singly or in combination uniquely set this road apart from other roads.
- be a lightly traveled local access road, one which serves the adjacent property owners and those wishing to travel by auto, bicycle, or hiking for purposes of recreational enjoyment of its rustic features.
- not be scheduled nor anticipated for major improvements which would change its rustic characteristics.
- should have, preferably, a minimum length of 2 miles and, where feasible, should provide a completed closure or loop, or connect to major highways at both ends of the route.
A Rustic Road may be dirt, gravel or paved; it may be of varying widths. It may also have bicycle or hiking paths adjacent to or incorporated in the roadway area.
The maximum speed limit on a Rustic Road has been established by law at 45 mph. A speed limit as low as 30 mph may be established by the local governing authority.
The designation process
The nomination process begins with local support. There are two ways to get started.
- Build that support by talking first to local residents, government officials, and civic and environmental groups. Using the petition form, obtain signatures from resident landowners along the road or in the county or municipality in which the road lies. These can be presented to the county highway committee or governing body of the municipality to obtain a supporting resolution.
- The process can also be initiated by resolution of the governing body. The local governing body may hold a public hearing on the proposed Rustic Road designation.
Upon approval of the resolution, the local governing body submits the application materials to request approval from the Rustic Roads Board. Application materials should include photos of the road, the description form, and a copy of the signed resolution. The Rustic Roads Board reviews the application and has final approval authority over the designation. Its approval makes the designation official.
The Rustic Roads Board
The Rustic Roads Board is responsible for assisting in the establishment of the Rustic Roads system by considering local governments’ applications for Rustic Road designation and exercising final approval authority for Rustic Road designation through a formal vote.
Per statute, the Rustic Roads Board is composed of four members appointed directly by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Secretary, four members nominated through Wisconsin Counties Association for Secretary approval and the two chairs from the legislative standing committees on transportation. Appointees serve staggered four year terms.
The Summer 2021 Rustic Roads Board Meeting was held virtually on July 13, 2021.
Rustic Road Board Members
- Marion Flood, Chair (Stevens Point)
- Daniel Fedderly, Vice Chair (Boyceville)
- Ted Cushing (Hazelhurst)
- Reed Hall (Madison)
- Marty Krueger (Reedsburg)
- Alan Lorenz (La Crosse)
- Senator Jerry Petrowski, 29th Senate District
- Representative Jon Plumer, 42nd Assembly District
- Thomas Solheim (Madison)
- Rollie Thums (Rib Lake)
For questions on the application process or program content, contact:
Liat Bonneville, Rustic Roads Coordinator
Wisconsin Department of Transportation
4822 Madison Yards Way, 6th Floor South
P.O. Box 7913
Madison, WI 53705
Phone: (608) 267-3614
Fax: (608) 267-0294