January 21, 2017
– Prior to 2015, Dennis Swenson discussed land protection idea with his sister Cheri (Swenson) Surowiec and her husband. The property had not been actively farmed since the 1970s and his mother Dorothy was aging.
– The landowners contacted the Bayfield Regional Conservancy (BRC), www.brcland.org, as it is a local land trust and has been involved in protecting land both on lands that remain private and lands that become publicly owned for its 20 year existence.
– The landowners’ wish was to “Preserve this beautiful natural resource for town and area residents to enjoy forever.” They recognized that their family had been allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the falls and river for years (i.e. allowing trespassing). They also recognized that a new private owner would most likely not allow access, except walking in the river. They wished to work with BRC to find sources of funding that would result in land protection with public access.
– 4/19/2016 – BRC presented project to the Town of Bell Town Board at its annual meeting to see if it is interested in working together to protect this property with public access.
– 5/10/2016 – the Town Board signs a letter of support and resolution of support for this project.
– July 2016 – Larry and Marcy Dorau agreed to include 5 acres of wetlands along the Siskiwit River in the acquisition proposal to total 100 project acres.
– 8/1/2016 – BRC submitted Grant Application to DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. It was determined that matching funds could be sought from NOAA through the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program with the Town of Bell as applicant.
– 8/20/2016 – BRC held gathering about the project at the Green Shed (due to rain) and walked the property.
– 9/16/2016 – Town of Bell Town Board authorized grant application to Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.
– 10/06/2016 – Grant application submitted to Wisconsin Coastal Management Program by the Town of Bell, in hopes that it would be selected for NOAA review and funding. It was.
II. Current Status of Project and Final Steps
– January 2017 – Town of Bell and Bayfield County were notified of the tentative DNR grant award to BRC and asked if they would like to submit a non-binding resolution in support of land protection with public access for this project.
– Spring or summer 2017 – Town of Bell residents will vote on whether or not the Town of Bell should own the land. If the grants are awarded and the Town does not want to own the property, Bayfield County may be a potential owner.
– Fall 2017 – Expected closing on this property if both grants are awarded. At that time, either Town of Bell or Bayfield County would need to agree to own the property, as are the requirements of the NOAA grant funds. Additionally, the draft land management plan will be finalized (see below for more info). A conservation easement held by the Bayfield Regional Conservancy will be placed on the property to further protect it, at the wishes of the landowners.
– When would the Town of Bell be committed? At the closing of the property transaction, the Town would be required to sign the deeds to the land, the grant contracts, and the conservation easement.
III. Requirements of Future Owner – Provide Public Access. The purpose of these grants is to ensure that the conservation values of the 100 acres are preserved and the property remains open to the public for nature-based outdoor recreation. Per grant contracts, uses include hunting, trapping, hiking, fishing, and cross-country skiing. Does hunting have to be allowed? A project funded by DNR normally means that the property has to be open for hunting. Due to its proximity near Town, the future Owner can work with DNR to further define this use to possibly bow hunting with a permit. Where will access points be? This is still to be determined with resident input. Most likely, designated and signed access will be off of Siskiwit Falls Road on the Swenson property near where the cabins used to be. Additionally, because the property was purchased with public funds, a future owner can’t install something on the property that prevents it being available to the public. The Future Owner can take steps to help discourage trespassing on other private lands through fencing and signage. And designated and signed access can be limited.
– Adhere to grant contracts and conservation easement uses and restrictions. Future Owner will need to come to grantors and BRC to approve any future activities like ones listed below. – Minimal recommendations from BRC and the landowners Improve riverside trails with simple railings and some steps/boardwalks to further protect the resources and designate a clear path for visitors Provide safe parking access through a small parking area on the Swenson property that helps people get off of the road Continue with invasive plant removal and control of buckthorn and honeysuckle to help protect the natural resource values of the property
– Not required: Trails. Trails do not have to be developed or maintained. However, if the future Owner wants to construct some trails, it can do so as long as conservation values are protected. – NOT allowed per grant and/or conservation easement guidelines Active agriculture, including timber or aquaculture production. Timbering on a limited scale may be allowed for habitat restoration or to create more suitable habitat for rare, threatened or endangered species. Campground or campground facilities Camping Motorized use
IV. Cost and Timeline for Future Owner – Small parking area: Fall 2017 or Spring 2018 $250 for Bayfield County trailhead permit $10,000 for materials such as gravel, posts, fencing, etc. – Trail work – minimum activities: Fall 2017 or Spring 2018 $250 for a Bayfield County shoreland zoning permit for trail improvements near the river ?$ for materials $1500 or more for additional interpretive signage if this is of interest to future Owner – Invasive weed work: Fall 2017 onward $2,000 for contract work. Once controlled, volunteers can help. The Swenson family has invested in this activity already for the past two years. – Grant funding and other donations can be sought to help pay for the above activities.
– No cost to residents – purchase of property or creation of conservation easement – No cost to residents – insurance. Public use of this property is covered under Wisconsin’s Recreational Statute. – No cost to residents – BRC’s staff time to work on this project. This is being covered by BRC’s membership donations, not you and not the grants.
– If future owner desires additional trails, signage, habitat management activities, etc. that are permitted under the grant contracts and conservation easement, funding would have to be found for those possibly through a grant. BRC is available to help with future grants and stewardship activities
V. Other – Land Management Plan – It is currently in DRAFT form, based on the landowners’ input and BRC’s experience in previous similar projects. As we approach the closing of this property transaction, BRC and the future Owner will update the management plan. Input from the community can be given. The plan lists things that are allowable if funding/resources are available. If on-the-ground conditions change, the plan can be updated.
A Friends group supporting this project has formed. It is interested in working together to raise funds for some limited projects. If you would like to be involved, contact Allen Hahn at email@example.com. – Re-routing the river/river mitigation project –
The grantors do not think that the land protection project would prevent future river mitigation work to address sediment from happening. This concern is addressed in the draft land management plan.