Waupaca (OnFocus) – The Waupaca Chain of Lakes is a popular destination for many anglers and boaters in central Wisconsin. There have been parking issues near the Chain for years, with tension rising as trucks with trailers are parked along roadways, sometimes blocking driveways and causing safety concerns.
One such concern was dealt with recently by the Town of Farmington. They passed a town ordinance that would no longer allow parking on Otter Drive, which is currently being used by many as overflow parking for the Taylor Lake launch ramp. Taylor launch, which is one of the nicer launches on the chain, is a favorite of many, leading to its 22 marked truck and trailer parking spaces filling quickly, especially on a nice summer day.
The concern on Otter Drive was the ability for an emergency vehicle to navigate that stretch of roadway and, indeed, all the way in to Taylor launch from Highway 54 on some very busy summer days. With trucks and trailers parked along both sides of that road, Farmington Town Chain Caroline Murphy said, there was a valid concern by some residents as to whether emergency vehicle could get to the homes in the event of a medical emergency or fire.
The decision was made to place no parking signs along both sides of Otter Drive starting on September 8. Parking would no longer be allowed there, likely shifting the problem somewhere else. With the lake shore being what some would even call “over developed,” options for creating more parking are slim.
“We know we have a problem here,” said Dayton town chairman John Miller in a recent meeting between the Town of Dayton, the Town of Farmington, and Waupaca County Parks. “We brought this on ourselves by trying to provide access to the public.”
The problem, many thought, has mostly been swept under the rug in the past, with this stakeholder group now being charged with finding an amicable solution.
While parking does exit in other areas and at other launch ramps, some of those ramps were never intended to be launches, according to Miller. The launches at Grandview, Dake, and Minor, he said, were originally were fire lanes in the early days of the chain. They were put in to access the homes or cottages that were around the lake to which there was not road access. These were never intended to be launch ramps at the outset, but were made into launches in an attempt to satisfy demand for access to the lakes.
There is also little opportunity to expand those launches. The typical DNR boat launch is 60 feet wide and, in these cases, that is simply not possible. This means boaters and anglers using those launch ramps park on the streets, which is not ideal, but is the only option in most cases. Miller said the towns are now doing what he called “after the fact triage” in an attempt to find parking, with this summer being especially busy on the chain.
There has been much discussion recently, between the towns and the county, about what to do regarding the parking situation and how to best address the needs of visitors while still keeping residents safe. One option proposed at the meeting was in relation to the launch at Snug Harbor. The land owned there by the county, according to county parks department head John Francis, was set aside because it is not buildable. Therefore, while that space sits vacant, it would not be an option that would help address the parking situation.
There is another option near there, however, which became the topic of discussion. While it had been looked at in the past, nothing had been done at that time.
“There is a possibility of adding a parking lot,” Francis said, “I know in the past it’s been talked about in that parcel that’s right in the middle, next to where the Wheelhouse built that extra little parking lot.”
He said there was discussion approximately five years ago, about making that area into a parking lot. At that time, it was approximately $37,000 to cut down the trees and make a parking lot. Miller said that area across from the bathrooms at the park, was one area that may be able to be made into a parking lot.
However, the original intent of that park area was to keep a green space in the middle of all of the developed land. Near the Minor lake launch, too, there is a relatively upland area at the south end of Oakwood Park.
Francis said, once again, if the desire was to cut down all the trees and “build a giant parking lot.” He said he was not excited about that idea, with most of the land on the chain already being overdeveloped.
With the development on the chain, Francis said he was not especially in favor of eliminating any more green space. Over developing the land surrounding any waterbody can have adverse impacts on that water body with increased erosion and contaminants from run off, not to mention the impact on the overall aesthetics.
While all parties concerned were aware there was a problem, the recent meeting information-only meeting in the Town of Farmington did allow for dialogue to create some sort of beginning to find a resolution to this problem.
Murphy said she did not want to simply move the problem somewhere else, although she was not sure what the best solution would be. For that reason, the meeting was called in an attempt to gather input from all municipalities involved.
The dialogue will continue with other options being explored as they become apparent. Murphy said they would likely not see the full impact of the closure of Otter Drive to parking this year, as it will be after Labor Day. She expected they would not have a full picture of how parking patterns had changed until June of next year or later, depending on weather next summer.
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