May Silent Alarm
BY MICHAEL MCFADZEN
Northwest Wisconsin bike trail controversy continues
Does combining snowmobiles, skiers, ATVs, horses, hikers and bikers on a state bike trail at the same time ever make sense? Not to reasonable people, but the Polk County Environmental Services Committee voted to allow horses and snowmobiles on the Stower Seven Lakes bike trail and are considering adding ATVs to the mix and possibly blocking bike use. It’s particularly ironic that the trail was built and funded as a bike/hike and ski trail.
“The crazy train is going off the tracks. There are so many problems with the committee’s proposal,” remarked Brook Wallen, President of the Friends of Stower-Seven Lakes when I pressed him about the proposal. Trail management experts would consider it ludicrous to place biking, skiing, equestrian, ATVs and snowmobiles on the same trail at the same time. The Friends Group has maintained, repaired, and held events on the trail for 10 years.
The committee is also considering limiting non-motorized events like fun runs or bike rides to one per year. Currently there are a dozen such events annually.
Acting State Parks Director Melissa Vanlanduyt confirmed the process: “The committee released the preferred alternative option which includes snowmobile and horses on the trail. There will be a public comment period before the plan goes back to the Committee then to the Polk County Board. The DNR does not review trail use, but we make sure the correct process is followed.”
“The battle for Wisconsin State Trails has begun in northwest Wisconsin. If county boards can flip trail use here it can happen anywhere in the state. It is a dangerous precedent,” according to Waalen. If approved, this could impact other non-motorized trails in Wisconsin. As previously reported in Midwest Silent Sports, The Gander Dancer, and Stower Seven Lakes State Trails are examples of how co-managed State Trails have become political footballs between county boards and DNR management. It’s hard for trail users to fathom that counties hold sway over the DNR on who gets to use the trail.
Local residents support the bike trail and the tourism impact for the community. The majority of county residents favored keeping the trail non-motorized by a 9-1 margin as evidenced by the number of public comments at a July 2018 Polk County hearing.
It may take legal or legislative action to stop county entities from dictating future trail use. Until then, it may be subject to the whims of local politics. The Friends of Wisconsin State Parks (FWSP) have recommended that the DNR maintain state trail planning as a legislative priority. FWSP has raised this issue with senior DNR Leadership who are working with local cooperators to remedy.
Are State Trails and Parks are important to you? Consider contacting elected officials on the issue of co-managed State Trails. Tell them parks and trails are an economic engine bringing over $1 billion annually to our communities. Attend local government meetings and engage your legislators. Consider contributing to The Friends of Stower Seven Lakes to help cover legal fees. Send your donation to FS7LST Legal Defense Fund PO Box 201, Amery WI 54001.
Tick season is here – take precautions!
Tick season is upon us and the dangerous female deer tick is common in the Midwest. Deer ticks represent the gravest threat to humans and companion animals due to their propensity to spread a variety of diseases including Lymes Disease. Female deer ticks are identifiable by a reddish spot on their abdomen.
Take precautions to keep you and your family safe. It’s imperative to use bug repellents. These include DEET (20% or higher) which is the most popular protectant that can be used directly on skin. Premethrin offers the greatest protection and is sprayed on clothes and shoes. It is best to pre-treat before entering areas where tick may be present. Other protectants include lemon eucalyptus or Picaridin repellents.
Wear light colored clothing so it’s easier to see ticks. Consider tucking pants into your socks. Frequently survey your clothing, looking for these tiny arachnids. Be aware that nymph ticks are tiny, just larger than the head of a pin.
Tick checks are another key step. Strip down and carefully inspect your whole body after being in areas where ticks are present. Consider establishing tick free zones around your home by establishing a 3-foot barrier of wood chips or rocks.
The most common bite sign is a reddish rash 1-2 inches in size. Many people do not get the bulls-eye lesion. Lymes Disease symptoms include fever, headache and fatigue.
There are great resources in Wisconsin, according to nationally known tick expert and UW Entomology professor Susan Paskewitz. Download UW’s Tick App from Google Play or the App Store. You can take a picture of a tick and UW experts will identify it for you. The UW Entomology website is an excellent source of information. https://wisconsin-ticks.russell.wisc.edu/
Popular Peninsula Park Tower will be rebuilt
Work has begun on the Eagle Tower replacement project at Peninsula State Park. “The new tower will be 60 feet high with a 1,000-square-foot observation area and an accessible ramp 850 feet long,” according to Steve Strucely, business manager for the Friends of Peninsula State Park. The old tower was taken down in 2016 due to structural concerns. “The ADA ramp is a neat extra feature that will allow people to walk through the tree canopy to reach the top,” Strucely told Silent Sports. The Friends of Peninsula Park were involved at the earliest stages of this process by urging a tower replacement, raising over $750,000, and engaging decision makers.
“The total cost of the Eagle Tower including canopy walk, interpretive signage, trail access and repaving is $3.4 million,” according to acting Parks Director Missy Vanlanduyt. “The tower should be completed in October or November 2020.”
Peninsula State Park is one of Wisconsin busiest with over 1 million visitors in 2019. The park has 8 miles of Door County shoreline on 3,776 acres where visitors enjoy hiking, biking, water sports, camping, skiing and other outdoor activities.