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Rib Mountain State Park

Property Master Plan

The Department of Natural Resources is revising the 2005 master plan for Rib Mountain State Park. The planning process will evaluate the full range of public uses occurring at the park and habitat management opportunities. In addition, options for the future will be assessed, including possibly new recreation activities. The planning process will evaluate a potential expansion of the Granite Peak Ski Area.

FL_RibMountainSP_Observation_Tower.jpgPhoto courtesy of Greg Bouressa

Planning Update

Work on the master plan continues with the hiring of a consultant to develop information and alternatives for downhill skiing and mountain biking at the park. As noted here before, the DNR’s Parks program redirected funding that it had allocated to hire an independent consultant to develop information on:

  • The existing downhill skiing operation, opportunities to improve its viability and visitor experiences, current and projected future regional alpine skiing demands, options for future ski run layouts, and economic factors.
  • Mountain biking opportunities at RMSP, both within the Granite Peak Ski Area and elsewhere in the park. In particular, the Department wishes to get expert advice on potential number of trails, skill levels, layouts and locations at the park to complement the biking opportunities elsewhere in Marathon County. Information on costs and other economic factors are also needed.

To keep the planning process moving, the Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership (GWPP) offered to raise funds and hire a consultant to complete this work. The GWPP was able to raise the necessary funds and hired SE Group to develop the needed documents. SE Group has expertise in analyzing downhill skiing, identifying needs, constraints, and opportunities, and crafting a range of feasible alternatives. It also has access to expertise in mountain bike trail design, needs assessment, and alternatives development. SE Group is currently working on their analysis and expects to complete their work in May 2021.

Anticipated Next Steps in the DNR Planning Process

After the department receives SE Group's final report, the anticipated next steps in the planning process are:

  • The department will post SE Group's final report on this website when it is received.
  • The department will use information in the report - in addition to other information sources including the ecological inventory work, the property and regional analysis, and public input received in the first public comment period - to help it develop draft goals and objectives and preliminary management alternatives for the property.
  • The department will seek public comments on these draft goals, objectives and alternatives, as well as input on the issues to include in the environmental analysis. The department expects the public input period will occur this summer.
  • Following the public comment period, department staff will post a summary of the input received on this web page. Then staff will develop the draft master plan, which it anticipates finishing this coming winter.

These steps are subject to change, so be sure to sign up for updates on the planning project by clicking the "Subscribe to receive updates on the Rib Mountain State Park Master Plan Revision” link above.

Where we are in the process

Process Process Description Public Input Opportunity
Background information

Staff gather and synthesize background information about the property and region to help inform planning decisions. Typical information sources include: existing plans and data, species and habitat inventories, surveys of visitors and their experiences, and input from local governments and partner groups. DNR staff summarize the background information in a series of documents for the public.

Initial public input

Jan. 22 to Feb. 22, 2020

A public open-house meeting was held locally to present information about Rib Mountain State Park and the broader region. A focus of the meeting was to gather public input about the park, the current and potential roles it plays or could play in the region, and issues to address in the planning process.
The public was able to provide input in-person or online.
Develop draft goals and alternatives Staff will use the existing master plan, initial public input, species and natural community surveys, and information on downhill skiing and mountain biking needs and opportunities to develop draft goals and preliminary alternatives.  
Public input on draft goals and preliminary alternatives Staff will present the draft goals and preliminary alternatives and gather public input and reactions. The format for this public input will be determined later based on the status of the COVID-19 health precautions.
The public will be able to view and comment on the draft goals and preliminary alternatives both in-person at the open house and online.
Develop Draft Master Plan Staff will use the public input on the draft goals and alternatives, background information, discussions with partners, and the expertise of property managers, fish and wildlife biologists, foresters, recreation specialists and others to develop an initial Draft Master Plan.  
Public input on Draft Master Plan Staff will present the Draft Master Plan and gather public input and reactions. The format for this public input will be determined later based on the status of the COVID-19 health precautions.
The public will be able to view and comment on the draft goals and alternatives both in-person at the open house and online.
Develop Proposed Master Plan Staff will modify the draft master plan as needed based on public input. This new version, referred to as the Proposed Master Plan, will be submitted to the Natural Resources Board (NRB) for its review and consideration.  
Natural Resources Board DNR presents the Proposed Master Plan to the NRB and seeks its approval of the plan. The Proposed Master Plan will be posted on the NRB website approximately two weeks prior to the meeting at which it will be considered.
In its evaluation and consideration of the document, the NRB seeks public input at its meeting. Instructions to provide input to the NRB can be found on the Public Participation Guidelines web page.


A master plan for Rib Mountain State Park was completed in 2005. In February 2015, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board authorized the Department to undertake a master plan amendment process for the purpose of evaluating a potential expansion to the Granite Peak Ski Area. Although Granite Peak Ski Corporation has publicly shared its vision for expanding the ski hill area, the Department believes that a potential expansion should be evaluated in the broader context of the entire park and other recreational opportunities. As a result, at their October 2019 meeting, the Board directed the Department to undertake a holistic evaluation of the full range of recreational and habitat opportunities at Rib Mountain to ensure that the park continues to help support the ecological, social, and economic needs of the area.

The Park

The State Park was established in 1927 and centered on what, at the time, was believed to be Wisconsin’s highest point - Rib Mountain. The park has grown in size and popularity over the years and now encompasses nearly 1600 acres and receives over 400,000 visitors annually. Except for the ski area, most of the park’s public use areas and facilities are clustered on about 60 acres of the more level terrain at the mountain’s top, which provides spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed several facilities at the park in the 1930s, including the first downhill ski runs and tow ropes. Over the years, a succession of ski hill operators have partnered with the Department to provide downhill skiing at Rib Mountain. Today, Granite Peak Ski Corporation leases 405 acres of park lands that provide alpine skiing and snowboarding opportunities under the terms of a 30-year lease signed in 2000.

Additional Information About Rib Mountain State Park Planning

Public Involvement

Earlier this year, the department sought initial public ideas, perspectives and comments on the current and future recreational uses and habitat management actions at the property. Over 2200 responses were received, all of which are posted here. DNR staff reviewed the comments and prepared a summary of the input and major themes.

Hardcopy forms (these have been split into batches to reduce their size)

Batch 1 [PDF] Batch 4 [PDF] Batch 7 [PDF]
Batch 2 [PDF] Batch 5 [PDF] Batch 8 [PDF]
Batch 3 [PDF] Batch 6 [PDF] Batch 9 [PDF]