County Plans To End Park Day Use Fees
If all goes as planned, the fee posts for admission to Marinette County Parks will be replaced next year with posts to accept voluntary contributions. There will no longer be a fee for visiting some of the most beautiful and remote spots in Marinette County. The boat launch fees will remain, said Pete Villas, Parks and Forest Administrator. Money collected there is used entirely for maintenance and improvements of the boat launches.
Vilas informed his parent committee of the plan at their meeting in Peshtigo on Thursday, May 4 during discussion of the department's 5-year Capital Improvement Plan.
Even without spots for accepting contributions, Vilas said park visitors have put contributions into the fee posts.
He added, saving the approximately 1,000 man hours spent on enforcement and collecting the day-use fees plus cost of the envelopes will almost offset the lost revenue. There also is to be a slight increase in camping fees at sites with electricity and water, which Vilas said are currently far below those of other campgrounds in the area. The committee last month agreed to make all sites at the two most popular county campgrounds, Twin Bridge and Morgan Parks, available by reservation only starting next year.
Vilas said he has been discussing the proposal to eliminate park day use fees with new County Administrator John LeFebvre and he approves of the idea. Villas said there are a lot of reasons to eliminate the parks day use fees, and the change should actually be revenue neutral.
Marinette County operates 22 county park properties, 11 scenic large parks, with six of them offering wooded campgrounds, plus four small day use/wayside parks, six boat landings and Camp Bird, which is a youth camp that is also available for family reunions, weddings and other group gatherings. Some of the parks also have lodges that can be rented for special events. There is a cabin at Goodman Park available for overnight rentals, and plans are in the works to also offer one of the McClintock Park cabins for overnight lodging.
Those who prefer primitive camping, without amenities, can purchase an annual permit for $12 that allows camping anywhere in the vast County Forest for two weeks at a time.
Reservations have been coming in strong for camping in the parks. All the reservable sites at Morgan Park and Twin Bridge are already filled for Memorial Day weekend, Vilas said.
Monday, May 1 was the official opening day for the parks, but the Lake Noquebay Park Lodge was rented out early, for a wedding on Saturday, April 29. The bride was home on leave from the military and the water was already turned on, so they made an exception, Vilas reported.
The "small" cabin at Goodman Park was made available for rent this year for the first time in a long time, and there are already four reservations.
Supervisor Al Sauld asked if there are any plans for creation of an ATV campsite on the ATV trail in Dunbar, and noted there has been talk about it for the last seven or eight years. Villas said currently the only Marinette County campground with direct ATV trail access is at McClintock Park. They put it on the county website last week with that information and already have reservations, he said.
Vilas agreed the request to put a new ATV campground on the airport property at Dunbar has been discussed, but said that is not the right place for it. "We need a better location, nowhere near the shooting range," he declared. He said the idea may be worked into the 5-year plan, and County Conservationist Greg Cleereman is working with him on plans and grant applications to help build it.
Committee Chair Al Mans said at a recent conference in Madison he learned there are grants for as much as $500,000 available from the Knowles Fund for these types of projects.
Vilas said if they decide to build the ATV campground he wants to start small and expand as needed.
Building the campground is one thing" he commented. "My biggest concern is how we can afford to operate it." He said it would be good if it could be located near an existing park, so personnel could care for both. "If we put it in Dunbar we would need to add one or two more people," he said.
Supervisor Dave Zahn, who is Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Peshtigo asked what work is planned for parks buildings. Vilas said there is a whole list of maintenance projects that have been put off for years. They plan to replace some roofs and repair stone chimneys at Camp Bird, and replace rotting base logs on park cabins, particularly the lodge at Morgan Park.
DNR Forestry Liaison Dan Mertz noted they have been talking about getting a cable skidder. Vilas said the CIP is a planning tool, and they can change t year by year if necessary.
Vilas noted that the Forestry and Parks departments are unlike most other county departments in that they create their own revenue and have special segregated funds from which to pay for equipment and make other improvements. By county ordinance, 5 percent of the proceeds from timber sales are put into the special fund.
Other capital Improvement expenditures planned for 2018 include $80,000 to replace two Forestry Department pickup trucks, and $50,000 to replace a Parks Department pickup. The major individual park improvement project planned is $32,000 to improve campsites and add electricity at Veteran's Memorial Park, but the plan also provides $50,000 for various parks building projects in 2018, and $100,000 in 2020 to build a new camping loop at Veteran's Memorial Park.
Other planned expenditures on the five year list are for replacement of various trucks used by each department, plus $200,000 for purchase of a replacement grader for the Highway Department in 2023.
The committee agreed without dissent to accept jurisdiction and responsibility for Goodman Park Road and enter it into the County Forest Road system. It had been a Goodman Town Road, and the town had a problem with maintenance.
After an explanation from Vilas the committee agreed to add a 3.5 acre parcel to the Tax Deed land Sale scheduled for Friday, May 19 in the County Board room at the courthouse in Marinette. Vilas said the adjoining property owner wants to buy it and asked that it be added to the auction. "There's no reason for us to hold on to it," Vilas said. The parcel does adjoin a trout creek, but it is completely landlocked with no access except through the property of the person who wants to buy it. Vilas suggested a $500 minimum price. Mans agued they should ask for $1,000, but he was overruled and $500 is the minimum price. Newly appointed Supervisor Tracy Greben, present as a spectator at the meeting, noted that once the land is privately owned the assessed value of the entire property will go up, and the county will get added revenue through all the years to come.
The committee accepted a $16,500 grant from the Ruffed Grouse Society Drummer Fund for habitat improvement work, which is to be done at no cost to the county.
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