Dane County Makes Historic Land Purchase
Hundreds of Acres Along the Sugar River Will be Protected
by Stephanie Sykes, Science Editor, and Sabrina Stangler, age 14
Dane County recently reached an agreement with the Bruce Company to pur-chase hundreds of acres of land along the Sugar River. This historic purchase is the county’s largest-ever acquisition of river frontage and creates countless new opportuni-ties for outdoor recreation.
Under the proposal, Dane Country will purchase 340 acres and preserve another 126 acres. The property includes more than 2.5 miles of riverfront. The area lies between the towns of Verona and Paoli, beginning at the intersection of Highway 69 and Sunset Lane in the Town of Verona and stretching east to Range Trail.
According to an agreement mediated by County Executive Joe Parisi, the land will serve as an area for fishing, hiking, cross country, hunting and trapping. The prop-erty also includes Native American burial sites, which the county hopes to assess and document. Dane County will work with the National Heritage Land Trust and other funders to finance this project.
Parisi noted that in addition to hunting and water sports, camping and biking may be featured in this natural area.
“Whether it’s paddling a canoe to Paoli, camping along the banks of the Sugar River or hiking with the family among tens of thousands of trees, this is truly a once in a generation opportunity to protect a true gem,” said Parisi.
Until 2004, the Sugar River was on the National Impaired Waters list for poor water quality and other environmental problems. The land purchase will help the county continue efforts to clean up the watershed and surrounding area. Since its delist-ing, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has reported numerous species of fish in the Sugar River. The stretch of land purchased by the county is particularly known for its trout fishing.
The total price of the acquisition is $3,054,000. Additional funding for recrea-tional development will be provided by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. Dane County hopes to gain official ownership of the property this year. The county and Bruce Company will manage the transition of the land together.
Bruce Company will continue to use some of the land for its nursery stock. The Bruce Company has owned the property for about 25 years. They once had plans to build a 27-hole golf course on the land, but never received local government approval.
The area is only a 30-minute drive from downtown Madison, but creates new recreational opportunities for people all over Dane County. “It helps preserve what’s special about Dane County,” said Parisi.
[Sources: Dane County; Wisconsin State Journal; US Environmental Protection Agency]