/ Letters / Comments on proposed variance to the NHAL State Forest Master Plan

Comments on proposed variance to the NHAL State Forest Master Plan

August 23, 2019

Editor’s note: the following letter was sent to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources property planner Phil Rynish, as well as Wisconsin Natural Resources Board chairman Dr. Fred Prehn, DNR secretary Preston Cole, Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest forest recreation superintendent Sara K. Pearson, Northwestern Recreation Liaison Cameron Bump, division administrator Tim Cooke, and Boulder Junction Town Board chairman Dennis Reuss and board members Laura Bertch and Jim Galloway.

To the Editor:

Dear Mr. Rynish,

I am writing to you as a home owner in Boulder Junction for 50 years, permanent resident for four years, former DNR Natural Resources board member (1991-2003), former Lower Wisconsin State Riverway board member(1989-1991), and president of the Boulder Junction White Sand Lake Association, Inc.

I wish to speak for the Boulder Junction White Sand Lake Association Inc. We unanimously are opposed to the proposed “Variance” to the NHAL State Forest Master Plan. Expansion of the ATV-UTV trail system is not acceptable.

I have a copy of the “Draft Plan” dated March 2005 in front of me. I would like to emphasize some of the important points in this plan. Page 4 talks about “a variety of trails for hiking and biking, snowshoeing and mountain bikes.” It also talks about primitive areas where motorized vehicles are not allowed.

Further on Page 7 ....and 8.....

Page 7

The Goals of the NHAL State Forest list:

• Proposed scenic management including Rustic Road along Highway K, and Scenic Lakes.

• Proposals for new and expanded “Natural Areas.”

• Proposed all Terrain Vehicle demonstration use area. An area of 3,325 acres in size with “potential” to support 8-12 miles of trails.

• This area was proposed in the far Southwest corner of Vilas County and was designated as “Experimental,” a field laboratory, serving as a “test area.”

The final version of the Master Plan approved 220 miles of trails in Vilas County. Nowhere in the “Overview Summary” document of the planning process was that ever mentioned.

Reasons why the Lake Association and the majority of the Boulder Junction community are dead set against the “Variance” and a local proposal to allow access of ATV/UTV on “town roads” or in the NHAL State Forest:

I. “Off Road/Off Highway” (ATV/UTV) is a serious and evolving safety issue. These machines do not belong on highway/paved surfaces as evidenced by the manufactures published warnings. If allowed, the safety issue is not just for the ATV/UTV riders, but the drivers and passengers of the cars, trucks, buses and vehicles, hikers, bikers and pedestrians, all legally allowed on the roads and trails in the NHAL Forest.

II. Enforcement

A.) Boulder Junction has no town police officer.

B.) The local warden has no arrest powers for town ordinances. He may, however, enforce registration, helmet, OWI, headlights, seatbelt, etc., violations.

C.) The Vilas County Sheriff’s Department must be called for local complaints to be investigated and unless there is a deputy in the area ... this is very difficult, if at all possible, to enforce breaches of the law.

D.) The “Partridge-Nixon” and “Frank Lake” parcels are designated as Semi-Remote Recreational Areas. These areas have been managed for “remote, quiet” recreation per The Master Plan (for nearly 40 years).

III. We are absolutely against the proposed ATV/UTV trail usage on the Nixon Lake Road immediately North and adjacent to White Sand Lake, both in the Boulder Junction Township.

For you, and Ms. Sara Pearson, please consider some history ... specifically the snowmobile road adjacent and to the north of White Sand Lake.

In the 1970s this trail was developed and opened primarily for snowmobiles, hunting, accessibility of trails, and logging access. There are two one day campgrounds and one day use beach on the North side of the lake, (heavily used by Camp Manitowish campers).

The NHAL superintendent at this time was Floyd Reinemann. Violations such as extended camping on these sites, vehicles such as 4-wheel drive cars, trucks, and motorcycles driving down to lakeside, were reported weekly to him by lakeside residents.

Enforcement of these abuses were minimal at best. Within one year Mr. Reine- mann made the decision gate-off access to this trail to any motor vehicles dur- ing the entire summer season. Problem solved!

We strongly oppose this road even being considered for ATV/UTV use.

IV. The “Partridge-Nixon Semi-Remote” area will be compromised without question if ATV/UTV use is granted anywhere adjacent to these unique and environmentally sensitive areas. They can easily be driven over or around the plowed up berms blocking access to roads and trails through these sensitive areas. It is happening today through the use of so called “dirt bikes” which are motorcycles that can be driven off road. Enforcement is nearly impossible. Ask any warden.

This unique remote (formerly “Wild Area”) land area has been carefully and successfully managed for nearly 40 years ... Do not let ATV/UTV’s anywhere near it!

V. The Camp Manitowish canoe trips on White Sand Lake day campgrounds alone number hundreds of campers every year. They canoe up White Sand Creek and portage over to the culvert at Concora Road for access to the lake. Consider hundreds of wide eyed campers being confronted by loud, dusty caravans of ATVs as they portage across the road. They then paddle to the traditional camping areas only to find them occupied by ATVs who left their machines near the road, one block North of the campsites or more likely have driven them through the woods right to the site. This will happen ... count on it.

VI. Finally, it must be noted the people who live and own property in Boulder Junction do not want ATV/UTV trails to access state trails that lead to town roads. A survey was sent to town voters and property tax payers in January 2019. These people represent 75% of the Boulder Junction tax base. The voters and non-voters were overwhelmingly against the use of ATV/UTV in the town or on any town roads or trails within the township, including State trails in the NHAL State Forest. Results — 55% against, 45% for.

Solitude, quiet, peaceful, tranquil, remote, wild, unique, are words often heard to describe the Boulder Junction area. These words describe why the vast majority of people choose to live and recreate here. These are important to the majority of the residents and visitors to the area.

Please carefully consider these adverse comments on the proposed “variance” as well as future planning or revisions to the Master Plan of 2005. A look to the future for the NHAL State Forest should involve the big picture and overview of protecting the entire four township areas of Boulder Junction, Manitowish Waters, Winchester, and Presque Isle from ATV/UTV use.

Keep this quadrant protected forever. Once it’s gone, it’s gone ... and that would be on the shoulders and legacy of all those involved in this important and unique decision.

James E. Tiefenthaler, Jr.

Boulder Junction White Sand Lake Association president




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