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Forest County considering off road park and campground development

Campground
Campground

LAONA, Wis. (WXPR) -- Proponents of a controversial off-road park in Forest County have unveiled the details of their proposal.

A planning committee has selected a location north of Laona, near the intersections of county highways G and O. It includes a stretch of the Peshtigo River.

The group Wisconsin Off-Road Vehicle Park Incorporated wants Forest County to purchase the 10-thousand acre site over a series of several years and phases. The land is currently held by private companies Crandon Timber and Plum Creek.

Jim Schuessler of the Forest County Economic Development Partnership says most of the park will remain forested and rely on existing logging roads for the off-road vehicle traffic. About 150 acres would be developed more intensively and include a campground.but he says the rest of the land would be managed for timber harvest.  "Thinking about a 10,000-acre park has created a misperception as I think people are thinking campground all over 10-thousand acres. It's not.  It's more like a working forest that has an adjacent campground that will feed that working forest."

The park's total price tag could approach 13 million dollars. But the group says half of that could come from DNR stewardship grants, with another 2-million from no-interest state loans. The group proposes to borrow the remaining 4.4 million from the Bureau of Commissioners for Public Lands.

Chuck Brys (bryce) who is doing financial planning for the off-road park.says the first phase would involve about 2-thousand acres and at least a million dollars in loans.  "So for phase one it's a million dollars. If this project didn't go through, if it wasn't progressing the way we are projecting, it can be stopped right there. And at that time the county owns an operating park, and it owns 2-thousand acres of forest land. So it's staged in, the 4.5 million commitment is over four phases, and the county isn't really paying that back, the park's paying it back."

Meanwhile opponents of the park have blasted organizers for secrecy surrounding their meetings and data projections. At a February public hearing in Laona, several opponents called for a referendum on the plan. Some have also questioned whether the park would have the draw that its proponents claim it would.

The committee presented its proposal to the county board Tuesday night.

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