Green Circle Trailhead Project

The Green Circle Trailhead was constructed in 2020 in Schmeeckle Reserve near the visitor center. The project includes the Menzel Pavilion picnic shelter, Sentry Plaza, all-season restroom, and an overflow parking lot. It serves as a starting point for visitors to explore the trails and habitats of Schmeeckle and the Green Circle. The trailhead was funded through a Wisconsin DNR Stewardship Grant and generous donations. No state university dollars were used for the project.

Click here to view photo galleries of the trailhead under construction
Green Circle Trailhead site plan

Click to view larger rendering

The Rettler Corporation in Stevens Point donated time to develop the overall site plan for the trailhead (above). They were hired by Portage County to develop the construction and bid documents, along with overseeing project construction.

Why a Trailhead?

The 27-mile Green Circle Trail is heavily used by residents and out-of-town visitors. Based on studies conducted by Schmeeckle Reserve interns, an estimated 125,000 people use the trail annually. In 2015, about 70% of trail users surveyed were from the local area (within 15 minutes), 22% were from elsewhere in Wisconsin, and 7% were from out-of-state. Despite all the use, the Green Circle didn't have a designated trailhead or starting point, which was confusing especially for out-of-town visitors. Since Schmeeckle Reserve has a visitor center and free parking, many trail users already started their adventures here. However, when the visitor center was closed, there were few amenities available. An official trailhead provides a comfortable starting point for people to explore the Green Circle and Schmeeckle Reserve.

Project Components

The trailhead consists of four enhancements:

Menzel Pavilion rendering
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1. Menzel Pavilion picnic shelter

A beautiful, open-air shelter was built across the trail from the Pankowski Friends Amphitheater, surrounded by prairie. The shelter features picnic seating for about 60 people, with a towering double-sided stone fireplace. A patio on one side of the fireplace provides an outdoor gathering area adjacent to the shelter. Stone columns and large timbers hold up a cedar roof with a unique open feel. The shelter is ideal for picnics, classes, programs, and gatherings.

The John Noel family generously donated $250,000 in funding to build the shelter. Per the Noel family's request, the shelter was named the Roy and Margaret Menzel Pavilion. Roy was one of the founders of the Green Circle Trail, and both he and Margaret were well-known civic leaders in the Stevens Point community for decades.

Paul Anderson, an architect with Alliiance in Minneapolis, developed the designs for the shelter, restroom, and amphitheater stage, replicating many of the same elements such as stone, wood, and metal rods.

The Menzel Pavilion is available to rent. Click here for more information.

Entry Plaza rendering
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2. Sentry Plaza

A circular entry plaza, located adjacent to the main parking lot, serves as a gathering area and focal point for visitors. The plaza was made out of decorative concrete. An interpretive kiosk provides information about Schmeeckle and the Green Circle Trail for planning adventures. Shaded sandstone seats around the edge serve as resting areas. A bicycle repair station, donated by the Hostel Shoppe, is available for last-minute fixes and tweaks.

The Sentry Insurance Foundation generously donated $125,000 in funding to build the plaza area, along with additional funding for other project components. The Sentry golf course, SentryWorld, is located just north of the site.

3. Overflow Parking Lot

The existing Schmeeckle Visitor Center parking lot fills during nice summer days and when there are special programs and events. With the addition of the trailhead and amphitheater, additional parking for the anticipated increase in visitors was needed. An overflow parking lot for 50 additoinal vehicles was built to the east of the existing lot. The lot was designed to minimize impact on the natural landscape. A one-way loop reduces the lot's footprint. It was surfaced with gravel to allow water to filter down into the ground. A retention pond in the middle of the loop, planted with native wetland/prairie vegetation, catches runoff.

Trailhead Restroom Building rendering
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4. All-season Restroom Building

A new restroom building constructed near the existing parking lot provides access to toilet facilities, even when the visitor center is closed. The building is insulated and heated to be open all seasons. Two accessible all-gender rooms will be convenient for trail users, while providing flexibility for larger programs and events. The design of the building features beautiful cedar siding and other elements replicated in the pavilion and amphitheater. A standalone water fountain includes a bottle filling faucet.


The Green Circle Trailhead project is a unique partnership between Portage County and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. It is a county-owned facility on state university land.

In 2016, the Green Circle board was approached by a private donor, John Noel, who was interested in funding a shelter for the trail. This idea was built into a larger project to create an official trailhead for the Green Circle. The Schmeeckle Reserve director, in conjunction with the Green Circle board and Portage County Parks director, wrote a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant through the Wisconsin DNR to fund $370,401 of the project cost. Portage County submitted the application in April 2017. The grant was awarded in May 2018.

Portage County is the fiscal agent for the grant and coordinated the entire bidding and construction process. Portage County and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents signed a Construction and Land Use Agreement that allowed the county to build on university property. After construction, the county will own and insure the buildings for 25 years (per the grant requirements). The university will maintain the buildings and pay for all utilities. After the 25-year period, the county will donate the buildings to the university.

The Friends of Schmeeckle Reserve and the Green Circle Trail board contributed substantial funding toward the project, and the groups will assist Schmeeckle Reserve in maintaining and developing the site in the future.

Bidding and Construction

Construction of the trailhead took place in 2020. The Rettler Corporation in Stevens Point served as the project manager. Altmann Construction, based in Wisconsin Rapids, was hired as the general contractor.

Construction Timeline

  • December 19, 2019: Bids opened
  • December 2019-February 2020: Bids reviewed, contracts drawn up, approvals through Portage County
  • February 2020: Altmann Construction selected as the General Contractor for the project
  • March-April 2020: Tree clearing in the parking lot and restroom areas by Kyle Kluck Excavating
  • May-November 2020: Construction of Menzel Pavilion, Sentry Plaza, restroom building, parking lot, and trail
  • Spring or Summer 2021: Grand opening (depending on COVID-19)

Project Donors

A special thank you to all of the generous donors who made this project a reality! Click here to view a list of donors.

Renting the Menzel Pavilion

The Menzel Pavilion is available to rent for private and community events. Click here for more information.