Contact(s): Sara Strassman, DNR Mississippi River planner, 608-518-2707; Ed Culhane, DNR communications, 715-781-1683
Island beaches along the main channel of the Mississippi River near La Crosse will be more inviting by the height of this summer's boating season.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is partnering with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to reduce poison ivy and unwanted vegetation encroaching on beach camping areas in navigation pool 8, which on the Wisconsin side of the river extends from Onalaska south to Genoa.
"The partners recently completed a beach management plan for pools 7 and 8 and the feedback we received from boaters and beach users was that vegetation, especially poison ivy, was spreading on to the beach sites," said Sara Strassman, a DNR Mississippi river planner. "Not only does this limit the available space for beach users, it puts a damper on camping when your tent is surrounded by poison ivy."
The work will take place from Monday, June 19, through Friday, June 23, and will include herbicide treatment for poison ivy and invasive species. The treated plants will die back over the course of the summer, leaving a more welcoming beach area for years to come. Work at each beach will last no more than one day. The herbicide has been approved for use on refuges and is rapidly absorbed into vegetation. To ensure that the vegetation is fully dried, each beach will be closed for two days after treatment. Signs will be placed at each site where herbicide is used to notify people when the beach can be used again.
There are approximately 40 beaches identified in the management plan, but numerous sand bars and shoals are also used by the public. The Mississippi River has an incredible amount of public land available for beach-going, boating, fishing, bird-watching and exploring.
Along Wisconsin's western border, the majority of the river is managed as part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, giving the Mississippi a natural beauty and wild character uncommon on major commercial river systems.
"Refuges are typically managed for wildlife first and do not receive funding for non-wildlife dependent uses such as camping or beach-going," said Kendra Pednault, deputy district manager for USFWS. "We recognize the importance of the Upper Miss and its islands and backwaters to multiple user groups. Partnerships such as this allow us to leverage our resources and improve the outdoor experience for those users where appropriate and not detrimental to wildlife."
The work will be conducted primarily by a La Crosse-based WisCorps crew contracted by Wisconsin DNR. WisCorps has a long history of invasive species management, trail building and recreation management. The crew has certified herbicide applicators who handle the chemicals.
"WisCorps engages young adults in conservation projects throughout the Midwest," said WisCorps operations director Willie Bittner. "We are excited to begin a project that allows us to improve recreational experiences on the Mississippi River."
This new collaboration with WisCorps provides an innovative way to complete beach work and may serve as a template for future beach improvements from Red Wing to Guttenberg.