Chicago tourism

New $2.4m Lapham Peak lodge moves forward with federal grant

A new lodge at Lapham Peak in Delafield is on the verge of becoming a reality after receiving a $1.3 million grant from the American Rescue Plan’s Travel, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program.

The Friends of Lapham Peak, which is leading the fundraising and planning effort for the new lodge, applied for and received the US Economic Development Administration’s $240 million Competitive Program Grant to help communities that depend travel, tourism and outdoor recreation to recover from the pandemic. The Friends group had already raised nearly $700,000 for the $2.4 million project before receiving the grant.

The new 5,000-square-foot building called Lapham Lodge will be built at the Evergreen Trailhead, which provides access to popular trails for hiking and cross-country skiing, including a 1.5-mile loop with artificial snow in winter. .

The lodge will include a large gathering area with a gas fireplace, accessible restrooms and change rooms, a multi-purpose room with a kitchenette, and a covered patio with benches overlooking the trailhead. Renderings of the lodge show a modern-rustic building with a sloping roof and tall windows separated by stone columns, with wooden beams throughout.

If the design of the building looks familiar to skiers, that’s because it is. The Friends group asked the architects to design something similar to the new lodge being built at one end of the Birkebeiner Trail on the former Telemark Lodge property in Cable.

While the new Lapham Lodge will no doubt be popular with the 674,000 skiers, hikers and other park visitors who stop at Lapham Peak each year, it will also be available to the public for rentals for everything from baby showers to weddings. – something the existing shelter does not have the capacity for.

This shelter is on the south side of the Evergreen parking lot and was built after the park’s 1989 master plan called for a heated shelter or hut. The DNR had wanted to replace the shelter for some time as it was unable to keep up with the popularity of the park, especially during the pandemic.

Lapham Peak, the ninth most popular park in the state, welcomed more than 730,000 visitors from July 2020 to June 2021, including a record 84,000 visitors in January, the highest on record for that month. The record number was a 72% increase from January 2020.

“So many people recreated there (during COVID) to get away from each other and get out into the woods. People have already kind of forgotten what a push it was,” said Friends volunteer Charlie Ritter. “(The shelter) was just too small and didn’t work well.”

For now, the plan is for the small shelter to remain and be used for ski hire, which are currently managed in a hut along the road to the car park.

Ritter sees Lapham Lodge as a place where people can rest after hiking, biking or skiing the Lapham trails, or even just come and read a book in a comfy chair by the fireplace – in the jokingly calling it “Lapham Peak’s Starbucks” (bring your own coffee, though).

A rendering shows the interior of the new Lapham Lodge at Lapham Peak, which will include a large gathering space and gas fireplace, as well as windows and a covered patio overlooking the hiking and ski trails.

The lodge also opens up greater possibilities for the park and the community, including the possibility of hosting major ski races in the future.

“We want to organize bigger events. We have the ability to do that with the lodge and the snowmaking capabilities,” Ritter said, noting that some events that travel to the east coast or Colorado looking for big hills may find that in Lapham, especially once they extend the snow cover to the park. big hills.

“When you have a big climb, you can have big races,” he said.

The park, a unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest, is the only one in the state park system with snowmaking capabilities, and it’s often the only place in southeastern Wisconsin to ski. winters with little snow. That makes the park — and Delafield — not just a destination for Milwaukee skiers, but also for locals in Chicago and further south.

The Friends of Lapham Peak group has raised over $1.2 million for snowmaking and other improvements at Lapham Peak since 2006 – including $360,000 for a new PistenBully snow groomer and storage building in recent years – and contributes between $15,000 and $20,000 a year for electricity and other costs, plus hundreds of volunteer hours.

The group began planning for the new lodge in 2021 and received formal approval from MNR to move forward in December. They will continue to work with the DNR throughout the planning and construction process, then donate the building to the state for ongoing operations and maintenance when it is complete. The goal is to start construction by mid-2023 and complete it by mid-2024.

But the group needs to raise an additional $400,000 before that happens and will seek the funds from a variety of sources, including private donors and state grants like the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund.

Ritter is confident they can achieve their goal with this grant.

“It will happen,” he said. “We’ve kind of gotten over the hurdle now. … It’s gotten a lot easier.”

More information: Lapham Peak is at W329-N846 County Highway C, Delafield. To learn more about the park, see

To find out more about Lapham Lodge and to donate, see

Contact Chelsey Lewis at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew and @VoyageMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel.