Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sauk Prairie Recreation Area open to public April 12 - May 27

FITCHBURG, Wis. -- Portions of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area will be open to the public from April 12 through May 27 for outdoor activities, including spring turkey hunting.

The public may access the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area at two places. The primary entrance is the main gate on U.S. Highway 12, which will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week.

An after-hour's entrance to the property is on state Highway78 (Gate 7, just north of Kilpatrick Drive) and will be open one hour before the opening of turkey hunting hours through one hour after they end each day during the Spring Turkey Hunting season.

A map of the open areas and open roads [PDF] is available by searching the Department of Natural Resources website for keywords "Sauk Prairie Recreation Area" and at both entry points.

In addition to turkey hunting visitors can trap, hike, bird watch, pick mushrooms and berries, bike open roads, study nature and take photographs. There will not be any fishing opportunities and horseback riding will not be allowed during this time period.

The U.S. Army is also opening many of the lands it still owns at the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant to public use during this time.

"We know the public is anxious to get access to the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area and, with the weather finally warming up, this time period seemed like a good fit to open the property before more clean-up work starts later this summer," said Dan Schuller, director of the Wisconsin State Parks.

"The opening of the SPRA and adjacent Army-owned lands was made possible by working in conjunction with our partners at the Dairy Forage Research Center and the Army," said Schuller. "They have allowed access through their lands, so we ask that visitors please respect their operations and refrain from entering areas and roads that are closed. Future access through and to these lands may hinge upon the public's adherence to these rules."

Some areas within the property remain closed to public access due to safety issues. In addition, all remaining buildings and areas around them are closed areas and may not be entered. No bathroom facilities or drinking water are available on the Department of Natural Resource lands.

The old pump house facility and the associated parcel on Lake Wisconsin remain closed due to safety issues. Hunters are reminded that they need a Zone 1 turkey permit for the period they hunt, turkey license and a turkey stamp.

Following the end of the final turkey season, the property will close May 28 to accommodate contractors who will be consolidating rubble piles throughout the property. The rubble will be crushed and used as base material in the planned reconstruction of USH 12 starting in 2015. In addition, DNR staff will be conducting additional clean-up and deconstruction work throughout the summer and fall.

"Visitors are reminded to be safe while they are enjoying the property," noted John Buss, Sauk County conservation warden. "There are likely to be many hunters and non-hunters out there during this period, especially on the weekends. We want all outdoor users to be careful, safe and to have an enjoyable experience."

Master planning update

Based on the extensive public input received his past summer, department staff are developing recommendations for recreational use and habitat management of the property. Although significant progress has been made, the department now anticipates completing the draft master plan in the fall of 2014.

"Developing a recreation use plan for the property is very complex due to the nature of the property, the importance of managing habitats, and the wide range of activities and experiences that the public has requested," stated Schuller.

When the draft master plan is released, the public will have 45 days to review and comment. In addition, the department will host a public hearing to formally record comments. The public will also have another opportunity to comment directly to the Natural Resources Board when the board takes up consideration of the draft plan after the public review and comment period.

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