No opening date in sight for Thompson’s state park

Correspondent

Peshtigo, Wis. In a state where the public already has more than
5 million acres of public land on which to recreate, it would seem
like 2,000 or so more acres would be fairly insignificant.

But that’s far from the case in Marinette County, where people
are wondering just what’s holding up the opening of the 2,187-acre
Gov. Tommy G. Thompson Centennial State Park.

“Other than boat launch No. 13 on Caldron Falls Flowage, there’s
no public access,” said park manager Maggie Kailhofer. “The park
will stay closed until it’s developed. We have no office, no roads,
no designated use, and no picnic areas.”

Kailhofer said it will likely be 2006 or 2007 before the park is
operational.

“At this time, nothing’s been funded,” Kailhofer said. “Part of
it is budget. We certainly don’t have any funding for
development.”

DNR Northeast Region landscape architect Dan Rogers said much of
the delay has been the process of getting the master planning
done.

“We’re starting basically from scratch to what’s going to be a
high-class state park,” Rogers said. “It’s been a long time since
we’ve done something like this.”

Rogers said the DNR hopes to have some interim measures in place
to get people into the park on a limited basis sometime in
2005.

“A place to park, drinking water, toilets,” Rogers said.
“There’s plenty to do and see if you’re willing to walk a little
bit.”

Gov. Thompson Centennial State Park was established in 2000, the
state park system’s centennial year. Master planning has been going
on since then. The DNR hosted public meetings in December of 2001
and August of 2002.

In June of 2003, a draft of preferred management alternatives
was made available for public review. The final draft of the master
plan is expected to be done soon, followed by another public
comment period.

“We expect to have it ready to take to the Natural Resources
Board this summer,” Rogers said.

A DNR Internet link on the state park and the master planning
process, www.dnr.state.wi.us/master_planning/ttsp_pesh/index.htm,
was last updated June 27, 2003.

Kailhofer said she’s the only employee at the park so far and
has been working out of a temporary office that was part of the
former Paust Woods Lake Resort. The rest was torn down in 2001.

“I’m busy. I’m swamped,” said Kailhofer last month, when there
was still plenty of snow on the ground. “Just keeping up with snow
removal has been tough.”

Kailhofer also is involved in reclamation of the land around the
old resort, which includes asbestos and lead abatements, clearing
land, and selling the cabins still on the property.

The park, located 13 miles northwest of Crivitz, protects 5,300
feet of shoreline on Wood and Huber lakes and protects Handsaw
Creek and Woods Outlet, both excellent brook and brown trout
waters.

The main parcel is the former 1,987-acre Paust Woods Lake
Resort. In addition, about 200 acres of wild lakefront was
purchased from Wisconsin Public Service Corporation on Caldron
Falls Reservoir.

Even though wildlife abounds on the property, it hasn’t been
legally hunted since the state bought the land in 2000. The DNR did
offer a proposed rule change for public vote at the spring fish and
wildlife hearings that would allow gun deer hunting during the
regular nine-day season.

It’s likely the park will feature a single entrance from the
south, off of Ranch Road.

Meanwhile, Sara Pearson, assistant manager of the Peshtigo River
State Forest, said the state forest is open to hunting. The state
forest is adjacent to the new state park.

After acquiring more land from Wisconsin Public Service later
this year, Pearson said there will be approximately 9,239 acres, up
from the 5,771 acres open last fall. Another 3,000-plus acres of
land is under water.

“There’s been a fairly good turnout of hunters,” Pearson said.
“Mostly those after deer, small game, grouse, and turkeys. There
are bears in the forest, but not too many bear hunters.”

Pearson said the October T-Zone and regular nine-day gun seasons
saw the most activity on the Peshtigo River State Forest. Few
hunters were there for the December Zone T gun hunt. An occasional
trapper is seen.

“For the 2003 regular deer hunting season, we had about 102
vehicles on opening weekend, and the majority of those were on
opening day,” Pearson said. “The biggest buck that I saw was about
an 8-pointer, but I heard reports of larger bucks. I did see
several big does come out, too.”

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