Colfax Village Board narrowly defeats filling in boat landing/fishing access to Red Cedar River in Stuart Park
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by LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The boat landing and fishing access for the Red Cedar River at Stuart Park in Colfax will remain — for now.
The Colfax Village Board narrowly defeated a motion to fill in the boat landing on a vote of three to three at the April 24 meeting.
The recommendation to fill in the boat landing came from the parks committee as part of an overall plan for building a campground in Stuart Park.
Filling in the boat landing would keep the river from flooding the park, said Jeff Prince, village president.
The village board has been discussing the possibility of building a campground in Stuart Park for the past several years.
Every spring, the Red Cedar River floods Stuart Park, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the amount of snow that is melting, how much spring rain has fallen and how much frost there is in the ground.
Stuart Park also will flood during the summer when there has been a torrential rain event. The park has flooded at least once in the past 10 years as the result of a summer rain storm.
The Colfax Messenger also reported in the July 1, 1993, edition that “Recent heavy rains created an impromptu swimming hole for area youngsters when the park near the softball diamond on Highway 170 became flooded. Picnic tables made good diving boards.”
The village has material that can be used to fill in the boat landing so it can be done at no cost to the village, Prince said.
Carey Davis, village trustee, said that the park is going to flood regardless of whether the boat landing is filled in.
Filling in the boat landing also will take away a boat landing and access to the river, he said.
Davis said in his opinion, there are better places for a campground in Colfax than in Stuart Park.
Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, asked if there was any agency the village should check with before filling in the boat landing/river access.
The berm built around what is now the lift station right across the road from Stuart Park, for example, was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1969 to protect the lift station from flooding caused by the Red Cedar River.
Two 100-year floods earlier in the 1960s flooded and damaged what was then the village’s disposal plant.
According to the April 10, 1969, Colfax Messenger, “As a measure of protection against the flooding of the Red Cedar River, a new dike around the village disposal plant in Rivers Bend was completed last week. Built under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, dirt and shale taken from the village dump site were used in constructing the dike, which required 8,000 yards of material.”
Other accounts in the Messenger report that during one of the floods, the water in the Red Cedar River was so high that the dam on Eighteen Mile could not be seen.
No information was provided at the April 24 village board meeting about the construction of the berm around what is now Stuart Park or what the purpose for the berm might be.
Rand Bates, director of public works, said as long as filling in the boat landing did not affect the river, no agencies needed to be consulted.
The motion to follow the recommendation of the parks committee to fill in the boat landing/Red Cedar River access failed on a vote of three “yes” to three “no.”
Voting in favor of the motion were Prince and village trustees Anne Jenson and Gary Stene.
Voting against the motion were Davis and village trustees Margaret Jenson and Jen Rud.
Prince, Jenson and Stene serve on the parks committee.
The Colfax Village Board currently has one trustee position open following the spring election.
According to Roberts Rules of Order, when a motion results in a tie vote, the motion fails.
Dunn County’s shoreland/wetland zoning ordinance requires a 72-hour-in-advance warning system in campgrounds subject to flooding to alert campers that a flood is coming.
The other nearest boat access to the Red Cedar River is downstream of Colfax at Felland Park.
The closest access to the Red Cedar River above Stuart Park is at the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area, although access there is much more difficult because the river banks are steep and there is no boat landing.
The Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area Management Committee has looked into installing a canoe and kayak access point to the Red Cedar River in the recreation area but has not yet taken taken action to install an access pier.
Installing a canoe and kayak access pier requires approval by the state Department of Natural Resources.
In the past, canoeing, kayaking or tubing from the recreation area, formerly known as the Ferry Pit, to Felland Park was a popular summer activity.
The best access point to the Red Cedar River from the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation Area is on private property that has since been fenced off.
In the absence of access at the Colfax Red Cedar Preserve and Recreation area, people have used Stuart Park to access the Red Cedar River to canoe, kayak or tube to Felland Park.
During the summer from time to time, vehicles with boat trailers are parked in Stuart Park after people have either launched their boats at Stuart Park or are intending to exit the river at Stuart Park after launching up-stream.
The Colfax Village Board also acted on other recommendations from the parks committee regarding the ballfields at Tom Prince Memorial Park.
The youth program and the adult softball program have raised money and are raising money to install a batting cage, a removable fence for the youth players, a gate in the dugout and storage cabinets for the concession stand, Prince said.
There also is a proposal to find sponsors to raise money and to install signs on the ballfield fence, he said.
The removable fence would be used to divide the ballfield for youth games for Little League. The youth program would coordinate with Bates regarding the sprinkler system, Prince said.
The removable fence would have plastic caps at ground level to cover the stakes for the fence, he said.
Burcham noted that people have tripped over the sprinklers and wondered if the removable fence base would pose the same hazard.
Youth programs in Boyceville and Chippewa Falls have used the same kind of removable fences, Prince said.
The youth program was able to raise $3,200 in two days for the fence, he said.
Village board members wondered who would have the liability if the batting cage were vandalized.
The batting cage would become village property and would be covered by the village’s insurance, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.
They are looking into the cost of the batting cage and still have to raise money for it, she said.
Davis said he would not want to see the village “be socked” for vandalism to the batting cage.
Niggemann said she could have a conversation with the youth program about who would pay the insurance deductible for repairs.
The advertising/sponsorship signs would go up on the fence, Prince said.
The youth program has a fund-raising committee, he said.
The idea of advertising signs has come up in the past, and the concern was whether the signs would impeded line-of-sight for traffic, Prince said.
Niggemann said one thing to check is whether the signs would be a concern for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Highway 40 past the ballfields is a state highway under the jurisdiction of WisDOT.
Could the signs be a distraction for drivers? Burcham asked.
Drivers should be watching the road, Stene commented.
The signs would be facing the ballfield, Prince said.
Davis wondered about the materials for the signs.
Will they be made out of plastic so they end up shredded in the wind, or will they be made of material that can hold up to the wind and the weather? he asked.
The signs will be a hard plastic that will be durable, Prince said.
The dugout gates would be installed for safety purposes and would open into the dugout rather than out toward the ballfield, Prince said.
The cabinets for the concession stand would be used by both the youth program and for adult softball, Prince said.
Rand Bates could install the cabinets, and the softball groups can coordinate with him for measurements and the location for the cabinets, he said.
They want to get their supplies off the ground and use metal cabinets to protect what’s stored there against rodents, Jenson said.
Davis dryly commented that everyone knows the village’s director of public works is not busy enough and is always looking for something to do.
There must be a carpenter among the adult softball players or youth parents who could volunteer to install the cabinets so Bates does not have to add one more item to his workload, he said.
Those were their goals. They have the money for the fence but still need to raise money for some of the other items, Stene said.
Jenson said she was pleased to see the youth group had goals, good communication and plans for fund raising.
Several board members wondered if the youth program representatives should come back to the village board when they have enough money for the other items.
Niggemann said that if she were the one who was working on raising money, she would want to know that permission was already granted for the items rather than doing all the work for fund raising without knowing if the installation would be approved.
The village board unanimously approved a motion to install a batting cage by the left field at third base by Bremer Field at Tom Prince Memorial Park.
The village board unanimously approved allowing the youth group to install the removable fence for both ballfields.
The village unanimously approved the sponsor signs for the fence at the ballfields and asked that the youth group provide information to the village about the type of signs and the material for the signs.
The village board unanimously approved allowing the cabinets to be installed at the concession stand at Tom Prince Memorial Park with the condition that the youth group find someone else other than Bates to install the cabinets if at all possible.
The village board approved installing the gates on the dugouts, which would be accomplished either by the youth or adult softball group.
The motions were done on a voice vote, and one village trustee voted against the motion for the dugout gates.