Open thread: March 2023
Weigh in on the Granite Peak issue and a look back at some of The Wausonian's recent stories.
Hey Wausonians - it’s our monthly open thread where you can weigh in on local issues. Unlike most of the posts, the monthly open threads are open to comments from anyone. Just remember to be respectful even in disagreement.
Last month we published a healthy amount of stories. The biggest, most eye-opening piece was breaking the news that Bridge Community had no staff doctor or dentists, despite its mission to help the underprivileged get access to medical and dental care.
I’ve heard nothing from Bridge, but I’ve heard from many who are glad the story came out. I’m disappointed other media didn’t pick up on the story. Not surprised, but disappointed.
I’ve also heard from some folks since the story launched that Smith even oversold how much dentist availability there might be at Bridge with the short-term contract dentists. I have no way to verify who is right, and its possible that was the situation but no longer was so by the time I contacted Smith. But either way, the only comments I’ve heard is that it’s good the story came out.
Also, the village of Kronenwetter looked at forming an ethics commission, and that went about as well as we’ve come to expect things to go in Kronenwetter. There are some things involving Kronenwetter I need to catch up on now, such as the village’s search for a new administrator.
And this story relied to some degree on the reporting of WAOW, which requested the records detailing the mysterious early retirement of “Officer Frank” and brought out a bigger conversation about zero tolerance policies and when to use one’s judgement over hard and fast rules.
We also took a look at a campaign finance violation alleged against current school board members by a current school board candidate.
And one of The Wausonian’s most popular posts ever came in early February. Emails obtained by The Wausonian show there appeared to be a coordinated effort to influence the Natural Resources Board to approve additional ski area at Granite Peak, undermining a years-long public input process that sought to balance everyone’s interest in the mountain’s development.
As an update, I have not heard from any of the NRB board members about whether or not they would consider a reconsideration (it has to come from a board member who voted in favor of it the first time).
For this month’s topic, I want to address Granite Peak. Should the decision to increase the ski area beyond the master plan be called back? Should it be left alone? And do you support the added ski area, or do you think it’s a bad thing?
If my question is a little un-nuanced, it’s to not influence you in how you answer. I want to get genuine opinions from you all, so leave your thoughts below!
Otherwise, that’s it for this Month’s Open Thread. Plenty of more stories coming over the rest of March - and I’ll give you a hint: at least one of them involves Kronenwetter, and it’s kind of a big one.
Hi there, I agree that the NRB needs to recall their approval to the amended master plan. The last minute amendment adds 25 more acres to the park. The 25 acres is currenlty at least partially a State Natural Area and the claim is that the ski lift proposed for that area will only cross above the expanded land, where no foundation work will be contructed in the SNA. However, the ski lift crossover will still impact the land and all the plants and animals that live or use the SNA area. Doesn't the SNA include the area above and below where the area shows on a topographical map? I keep wondering how my own life would be impacted if someone built a ski lift over where I live, even though construction might not take place on the land I own, my life and wellbeing would still be dramatically impacted.
I am writing to address the decision of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board to adopt the DNR's Proposed Master Plan and ill-conceived last-minute Amendment to the Master Plan for Rib Mountain State Park. I am opposed to any Granite Peak expansion of their ski runs or a new chair lift to the west of their current lease area, especially a 28-acre parcel to the south (uphill) as granted in the Prehn Amendment which includes lands protected as a State Natural Area. From the Wisconsin DNR website: "State Natural Areas protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations ....They also provide some of the last refuges for rare plants and animals." There are 3 rare plant species and federally endangered Northern Long-Eared Bats present in this State Natural Area. Manmade snow lasting weeks or even months longer will likely kill those endangered plants and prohibit nesting behavior in bats. There are threatened birds that breed there, and a true abundance of spring wild flowers. Birders, wildflower lovers, and people who love to hike in natural areas use this area enthusiastically, and bulldozing ski runs and creating open areas will destroy it. State Natural Areas should never be compromised.
No environmental study for the master planning process was done on this compromise of this State Natural Area because the DNR did not consider expansion into this protected area. That was because State Natural Areas are to be protected. The roads built in this expansion area in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps were also not considered to be historically important, and will be destroyed, though these roads were avoided following study by the former Park superintendent in the 2005 Master Planning process. The historic Knapp homestead site will be compromised.
The mountain biking community also supported this Amendment expansion, due to their belief that they might be able to use the lift and runs in the summer. Again, the complete devastation to this area winter and summer will have long lasting negative effects for birds, wildlife, hikers, wildflowers, our history, and those who love and enjoy the quiet side of our state park.
I realize how hard it is sometimes to balance short-term gains or new opportunities against long term protection of unique natural places. I certainly do not oppose Granite Peak managing its business for a profit, but I do oppose the profound and permanent changes that the plan and Amendment represent. Devastation of 68 acres of Rib Mountain State Park for 3 new ski runs is counter to preserving our necessary green space. Some changes are worth the cost, others are not. In this case, the balancing should not be hard.
Wisconsin law provides for notice and ability for the public to comment on changes to public lands, such as this master planning process, and the subsequent Amendment. At the very least, the Natural Resources Board should allow those who oppose these changes to present their arguments. Please urge the Natural Resources Board to reconsider the Amendment, and expansion of the ski area to the west, by contacting them at dnrnrbliaison@Wisconsin.gov.
Karen Graff, Kronenwetter