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Sauk County approves recreational plan to determine future development of county parks system
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Sauk County approves recreational plan to determine future development of county parks system

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Prairie du Sac Public Works employee Steve Haas helps with the installation of historic and interpretive signs aong the Great Sauk State Trail Sept. 18. Sauk County approved a four year plan for updates and expansion of the county parks system on Jan. 21, which includes the continued development of the Great Sauk State Trail. 

The Sauk County Board of Supervisors has approved a four-year recreational plan, outlining the future development and needs of the county’s park system and recreational spaces.

The goal is to provide an outline for development of the nine county parks and recreational areas, by identifying four priorities the county will focus on in the next five years, said Lisa Wilson, director of the county’s Land Resource and Development department.

The plan, approved Jan. 21, identifies four priorities, the first focusing on future development of the parks and recreational areas, how to sustain them and how the county can expand its recreation opportunities in the future.

“It really sets a course for what Sauk County should be doing with its parks and parks property,” said Brian Simmert, planning and zoning manager. “Also, what Sauk County should be doing with recreation and what kinds of opportunities should we offer residents and visitors in terms of a recreational experience.”

The plan calls on the county to promote the establishment of a Friends of Sauk County Parks group to provide volunteers and raise money to support the parks system.

The plan further calls for the creation of a capital improvement plan to provide policy direction for the future purchase of land to expand the parks system, as well as scheduling repairs, replacements and improvements.

The plan states that meeting safety and Americans With Disabilities Act requirements should be the highest-ranked needs for the county’s parks.

The county will also create a master plan to identify the individual needs of each park and recreational area and provide options for future improvements of the parks system.

Finally, in an effort to further develop the entire parks system, the plan states it will increase staffing in the Parks and Recreation Department. The department is understaffed now, according to the plan, which means needed maintenance and updates to the system are not being accomplished.

The plan identified management and stewardship of the county’s natural resources as another primary focus. The county hopes to receive designation as a Department of Natural Resources “Bird City,” which will profile the county as a popular destination for birds and other wildlife. Baraboo, Reedsburg, Sauk City and Prairie du Sac already have this designation within the county.

The county will also continue to work on improving water quality, as according to the plan, several waterways are listed as high priority on DNR’s Impaired Waters List, including the Baraboo River, Wisconsin River Mirror Lake and close to 20 others. These waterways have a high percentage of pollution from phosphorus and sediment erosion.

The plan calls for continued partnership with agencies and land owners who have financial and technical support with the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which supports land, soil and water quality improvements. In addition, the county will also continue to follow plans outlined in the Land and Water Resource Management plan, which was formulated in 2007.

The third priority the plan identifies for the development of the parks system includes establishing partnerships with community members and organization. The plan says the county will partner with the Sauk County Historical Society to develop future plans for Yellow Thunder Park and Man Mound Park.

The plan also has the county creating a program to seek grants to cover costs of further expansion of recreational facilities and properties.

The last priority point the plan established focuses on economic development and tourism. The county will focus on the further development of the Great Sauk State Trail, which currently connects Sauk Prairie to Devil’s Lake State Park. The county plans to expand the trail, so that it will overlap with trails in Dane County and Reedsburg, and eventually will connect as part of larger state trails that will make it possible to travel from Milwaukee to La Crosse by bike.

Additionally, the county will work to improve access to waterways, by creating more waterway entries between municipalities and providing signs with environmental and historical information.

The county is also looking to improve ATV and snowmobile routes through some municipalities.

“There is a huge advantage to going through the process,” said Simmert. “It makes you eligible for grant funding. In order to qualify for stewardship funding, you must have an outdoor plan that makes some reference to the project you are applying for.”

Simmert said the previous four-year plan for the county helped secure about $600,000 for the Great Sauk State Trail.

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