No skunks were to be found on Skunk Island.
Beaver Dam’s Lake Development Corporation “met” Thursday to tour Skunk Island, a small land mass off the shore near Oak Lane and Edgewater Park. The nonprofit board, which is appointed by Mayor Becky Glewen, manages the island and is tasked with determining its future. Board members hopped on two pontoon boats, leaving from Tahoe Park on a cloudy, drizzly day.
There are trees and weeds, lots of them. There are mosquitoes, lots and lots of them. A garbage can sits near three rotting picnic tables, shoved together. A small fire site apparently hasn’t been touched in a long time. A bucket of solid concrete made a random appearance. There is a small wooden shed that is empty at the moment but has been used in the past to store aeration equipment.
The island seems larger on foot than it does from the lake. The northern part of the island is more grown over and getting into its clearing involves some ducking and pushing aside tree branches. The island has nowhere to park a boat and board members had to walk a plank to make it from the pontoon boats and onto solid land.
“I think it’s a valuable piece of property and it’s a shame nobody can use it,” said Common Council member Kevin Burnett, who is on the board.
In 2011, the corporation closed the island to the public and put up no trespassing signs, in part to protect equipment on the island used to operate aeration units. The corporation provides funds to the Beaver Dam Lake Improvement Association to run the aeration units, which keep enough oxygen flowing in the water during the winter months to reduce fish kill.
A heated, years-long conflict came up over whether duck hunters would be allowed access to the island which came to a stop in 2018 when Glewen reappointed the board with only two of its previous members.
Now the board is trying to decide what, if anything, to do with the island. That could mean opening it up to youth hunts or kayakers. It could mean making it a place to picnic and relax. It could mean leaving it as is. An idea that came up was creating a volunteer project out of the island to spruce it up.
“I thought it was very cool, and the minute I got on it, I saw the potential,” said Lori Platt, the vice chair of the board.
Standing near the water, the board members voted to spend $1,000 to bring in a land use attorney in July who will help them consider their options. The meeting adjourned. Then came the beer cooler.