National forest officials looking for comments on recreation plan that could convert some closed facilities to forest land

Outdoor education has a particular appeal in a pandemic, since research shows that coronavirus transmission is much lower outdoors, and kids and adults can more safely go unmasked in the open air.

RHINELANDER, Wis. – Six public meetings/open houses have been scheduled regarding the future of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest’s recreation program.

A draft proposal – which is intended to reduce operations and maintenance costs and maximize public benefits while balancing social, economic and environmental factors – can be found online on the forest’s website, www.fs.usda.gov/cnnf/.

Forest officials are seeking feedback and comments on draft proposed management actions from Oct. 15 to Dec. 15. Comments received will be taken into consideration as the forest looks to finalize its five-year Recreation Facility Strategy in the spring of 2019.

Public meetings/open houses are scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Monday, Oct. 29, Best Western Crandon Inn & Suites, 9075 E. Pioneer St., Crandon.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 30, C-NNF Ranger District Office, 1170 Fourth Ave. S., Park Falls.
  • Monday, Nov. 5, Frances L. Simek Memorial Library, 400 N. Main St., Medford.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 7, Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, 29270 County Trunk G, Ashland.
  • Thursday, Nov. 8, Cable Community Center, 13660 County Trunk M, Cable.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 13, North Star Lanes, 400 Prosser Place, Antigo.

Comments can be submitted online through an interactive map on the C-NNF website; by attending a public meeting/open house; by visiting any of the forest’s offices throughout northern Wisconsin; or by contacting public affairs officer Hilary Markin at 715-362-1354 or CNNFAdmin@fs.fed.us.

The U.S. Forest Service is looking for information, comments and other assistance from federal, state and local agencies, tribes, landowners and other individuals or organizations that have an interest in or could be affected by the proposed management actions.

“The forest has been working since 2015 to develop a proposal for a sustainable recreation program,” forest supervisor Paul Strong said. “We finally have a proposal and are looking forward to engaging with our partners and visitors on next steps.”

The forest analyzed 193 developed recreation sites in Ashland, Bayfield, Florence, Forest, Langlade, Oconto, Oneida, Price, Sawyer, Taylor and Vilas counties. Those sites include campgrounds, boat landings, canoe access points, recreation areas, picnic areas, fishing piers, beaches, trailheads and nature trails.

According to the draft proposal, 45 sites would have no changes; 22 sites would be converted to general forest area; and the remaining 126 sites have varying proposed actions ranging from increased amenities to changes in the level of operation and maintenance.

The 22 sites to be converted to general forest area include several federal campgrounds the USFS closed in 2015 to reduce costs.

The draft proposal calls for seven of those former campground properties to be “converted to a general forest area as infrastructure is removed and access would be maintained on existing MVUM (Motor Vehicle Use Map) roads.”

The seven former campgrounds are Lake Three and Mineral Lake in Ashland County; Brule River, Sevenmile Lake and Windsor Dam in Forest County; and Kathryn Lake and North Twin Lake in Taylor County.

Two other closed campgrounds – Stockfarm Bridge in Ashland County and Smith Rapids in Price County – would reopen under the draft proposal.

Plans call for a new visitor information kiosk and the recruitment of a campground host/volunteer at Stockfarm Bridge and closing campsites 1, 5, 9, 10 and 11 at Smith Rapids. Campsites 9-11 would be converted into a parking area for horse trailers.

“The forest will consider all comments and feedback received during the public engagement period,” Strong said. “The feedback received will be evaluated and may be incorporated into changes to the five-year Recreation Facility Strategy. We value your feedback and look forward to your participation in this effort.”

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