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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area Management Committee has been notified of a $3,500 grant award from the Dunn Energy Cooperative Operation Round Up Program for a handicapped-accessible fishing pier.
The CRCPRA Management Committee “has been thrilled with the extensive public use of the Preserve. We have been concerned, however, about the lack of ready access to the Ferry Pond and wildlife observation sites for individuals who are mobility challenged,” said Kathy Stahl, chair of the management committee.
The Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area is approximately150 acres, with hiking trails and access to the Red Cedar River as well, and is located on state Highway 170 just north of Colfax and across the road from Felland Park.
Ferry Pond is a 15-acre pond that contains a variety of fish and is the home of frogs, turtles and water birds, with a number of song birds inhabiting the trees around the edge of the pond.
The pond was named after Forrest Ferry, a lifelong resident of the Colfax area, who farmed the property until his death in December of 1969.
After Forrest passed away, his wife, Lillian, sold the property to Dunn County to be used as a gravel pit.
The Preserve was recently purchased from Dunn County through contributions from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund along with donations from Dunn County and private individuals and has been deeded over to the Town of Colfax.
“A pier into the Ferry Pond will allow those who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids to sit in a good wildlife viewing and listening spot and to fish from a safe and scenic point in the pond,” Stahl said.
The pier will be located on the south side of Ferry Pond next to the new picnic area, said Paul Verdon, CRCPRA Management Committee member.
The pier will be a short walk from the blacktop road and accessible to those in wheelchairs and those with physical disabilities, he said.
The pier will extend about 46 feet into the pond and will feature a six-foot by 32-foot platform at the end of the pier and with railings encircling the entire pier, Verdon said.
The water around the platform is approximately five feet deep and should provide quality opportunities for fishing and wildlife viewing, he said.
“The pier will allow individuals of all ages and all abilities to experience the beauty of Ferry Pond,” Verdon said.
“The pier will extend across approximately twenty feet of cattails along the water’s edge. This unique setting will allow for great wildlife viewing and a chance to observe this wetland habitat up close and personal,” he said.
The total estimated cost for the fishing pier and the approach path is $45,000, Stahl said.
“We very much appreciate the Dunn Energy Operation Round Up Grant giving us such a good start toward the purchasing price of the pier,” she said.
The Dunn Energy Operation Round Up Program raises money for charitable organizations and educational purposes through members of the cooperative who have given permission for their electric bills to be rounded up to the next dollar.
The average annual donation to the program from Dunn Energy Cooperative members is $6, according to the Dunn Energy website.
Kasey Yallaly, a fisheries biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources out of the Baldwin office, conducted a fish survey at Ferry Pond on May 11, 2021, and sampled the entire 1.07 miles of shoreline, according to the report received by the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area Management Committee.
The survey involved panfish and gamefish.
DNR personnel used a DNR standard direct current double anode mini-electrofishing boat to conduct the survey.
All of the panfish and gamefish captured were measured to the nearest 0.1 inch and were identified as to species.
The May 11, 2021, survey was the first known DNR survey of Ferry Pond.
A total of 287 fish were sampled during the survey, and nine species were identified.
Gamefish included Largemouth Bass and Northern Pike. Panfish species included Bluegill, Pumpkinseed sunfish, Black Crappie and Yellow Perch. Golden Shiners, White Suckers and Yellow Bullhead also were among the species in Ferry Pond.
Largemouth Bass were the most abundant of the gamefish, with 82 of them collected during the survey, ranging in length from 3.4 inches to 19.6 inches.
According to the report, the catch rate for Largemouth Bass was 76.6 per mile of shoreline, which falls into the 90th percentile for similar lakes across the state.
The Largemouth Bass were in excellent condition, the report states.
Only one Northern Pike was sampled and measured 22.8 inches long.
Bluegill were the most abundant of the panfish, with 191 collected at lengths ranging from 1.8 inches to 7.7 inches and an average of 5.4 inches.
The Bluegill catch rates were in the 70th percentile compared to similar lakes across the state with a catch rate of 178.5 per mile of shoreline.
Only one Black Crappie and one Yellow Perch were collected. Five Pumpkinseed sunfish were collected, ranging from 5.3 to 6.9 inches, with a mean length of 6.2 inches.
The report notes that the survey “collected a sample of the fish that are present and is not designed to be a census of the population. Larger Northern Pike were observed evading the electricity field during the survey, and more are present.”
The report goes on to state, “Overall, the fish populations within the Colfax Gravel Pond exhibited adequate growth rates and are in relative high to moderate densities. Largemouth Bass exhibited good size structure and variable recruitment. Largemouth Bass and Bluegill populations are heavily dependent on each other and fluctuate through time.”
The report explains that the Largemouth Bass will feed on the smaller Bluegill, and that the Bluegill will eat the Largemouth Bass eggs, so that each contributes to the growth of the other and to the continued viability as a fish species in the pond.
One management recommendation is to consider setting a 10 panfish bag limit for Ferry Pond, the report states.
If anyone has suggestions for other grants that the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area Management Committee could apply for so that the handicapped accessible fishing pier can become a reality, “we would love to hear from you,” Stahl said.
The CRCPRA Management Committee also would welcome any donations toward the fishing pier.
If you wish to make a donation to help build the handicapped-accessible fishing pier, you can send a check to the Town of Colfax, N8409 County Road M, Colfax WI 54730, and indicate your donation is for the dedicated pier fund.
If you have suggestions for grant applications, an idea for a fund raiser or other information you would like to provide to the management committee, you can contact LeAnn Ralph by telephone at 715-308-6336.
LeAnn Ralph, the reporter for the Colfax Messenger, is a member of the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area Management Committee.