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ARCHIVED Weekly News Published May 26, 2015

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June 6-7 is Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin

Ask the Experts chat on June 2 offers tips to make the most of the opportunities

MADISON - The first weekend in June offers ample opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors in Wisconsin as the state celebrates "free fun weekend." Admission stickers are waived for Wisconsin's state parks and forests, trail passes are waived for state bicycle and all-terrain vehicle trails and no fishing licenses are needed to fish state waters. People who camp at state parks still need to pay for their campsites.

June 6 is also National Trails Day and Wisconsin is celebrating 50 years of rail trails, with a celebration of 50th anniversary of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the first trail established on an abandoned railroad corridors in the nation. The celebration takes place at 2 p.m. at the historic Kendall depot, with a number of bicycle rides and tunnel tours preceding the event.

Many other trails are also celebrating with organized hikes, rides or events. People can enjoy free access to state-owned and operated trails that normally require a trail pass for those 16 or older who want to bike, in-line skate or horseback ride. Find trails by searching the Department of Natural Resources website,, for "Find a Park" and find events by searching for "Get Outdoors," and then select the calendar search function for June 6-7.

Many properties and their friends groups are offering special programming during Free Fun Weekend. Some properties are taking advantage of free fishing weekend by offering fishing clinics, including Governor Dodge, Harrington Beach, Hartman Creek and Merrick state parks and Richard Bong State Recreation Area, and a learn to fly fish program is being offered at the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

A few state fish hatcheries also open their doors with special open house festivities on June 6. The Les Voigt State Fish Hatchery in Bayfield will host an open house and kids fishing event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the Brule State Fish Hatchery will host a family fun day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

But people can fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp on Free Fishing Weekend. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons when you must release certain fish species.

If you don't own fishing gear but would like to give it a try, equipment is available through tackle loaner programs at many state parks and DNR offices. Contact a tackle loaner site to find out what's available at a location convenient to you. Additional free fishing activities taking place around the state can also be found by searching the DNR website,, for keywords "free fishing weekend."

Wisconsin law requires those who use Wisconsin ATV or UTV trails to display either Wisconsin registration or a nonresident trail pass, but on Free Fun Weekend, ATV/UTV owners do not need to have their machines registered in Wisconsin and nonresidents do not need to have a trail pass.

Free Fun Weekend "Ask the Experts Chat" on June 2

To learn more about what's in store this year, join DNR experts for an online chat about the 4-Pack of Fun Weekend. The chat is scheduled for Tuesday, June 2 at noon. To participate, visit the DNR home page,, and click on the graphic or search the phrase "ask the experts." You can also join the conversation via our Facebook page at and clicking the "Ask the Experts Chat" tab at the top of the page.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: on park, forest and trail activities contact Paul Holtan at 608-267-7517; for free fishing activities contact Theresa Stabo at 608-266-2272



Wisconsin celebrates 50 years of rail trails on National Trails Day June 6

Elroy-Sparta State Trail first rail to trail in the nation

MADISON - National Trails Day is June 6 and it will have special significance in Wisconsin with a 50th anniversary celebration of rail trails in the state. Wisconsin became the first state to convert an abandoned railroad corridor into a recreational trail--the Elroy-Sparta State Trail--in 1965. The "rails to trails" movement has since spread across the state, nation and the world.

The celebration will commence with a free shuttle tour through Tunnel 1 and a series of rides beginning at five different communities along the trail: Sparta, Norwalk, Wilton, Kendall and Elroy. The rides are composed of 50 people each and advanced registration is required. Each rider will receive a free commemorative 50th Anniversary t-shirt, with different neon colors for each community. All 250 riders will then ride together from Tunnel 1 to Kendall in full force, arriving before an official 50th Anniversary Ceremony begins at 2 p.m. at the historic Kendall Depot, which is the Elroy-Sparta State Trail headquarters.

People can find out more about the rides and register through the event website (exit DNR).

Guest speakers at the ceremony will include Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede, Wisconsin Department of Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, an Elroy native, and local elected officials. The ceremony will conclude with a rededication ribbon cutting for the trail.

National Trails Day is also the first day of Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin, when trail passes, park and forest admission stickers, fishing licenses and out-of-state ATV passes are waived for the weekend. The celebration in Kendall is being coordinated by the Friends of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, the Elroy-Sparta Bike Trail 50th Anniversary Ride Committee, the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks, the Sparta Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin State Parks program. Food and refreshments will also be available from local service clubs.

"We are encouraging rail trails across Wisconsin to join in the celebration with their own events any time in 2015. We're very proud of our State Trails, but there are other rail trail providers in Wisconsin and we'd love for them to join in the fun of celebrating 50 years," says Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator for the DNR Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

Other trail events being held on June 6 include:

Since the establishment of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in 1965, Wisconsin has developed an additional 40 state trails (36 of them rail trails) extending more than 2,000 miles. Nationwide there are more than 1,900 rail trails spanning more than 22,000 miles, according to the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Trails can have a significant economic impact for local communities, with a recent DNR and University of Wisconsin study finding that, on average, individual trip spending of visitors to state trails was more than $90 per day.

People interested in participating can keep abreast of activities by searching the DNR website for keywords "rail trails." Groups interested in organizing events on National Trails Day or throughout the year as part of the 50th anniversary of rail trails in Wisconsin are encouraged to contact Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator, at 608-266-2183 or

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brigit Brown, state trails coordinator, 608-266-2183 or Paul Holtan, DNR parks, forests and recreation public affairs manager, 608-267-7517



June officially 'Great Outdoors Month' in Wisconsin

MADISON - The month of June is officially Great Outdoors Month in Wisconsin, under a proclamation signed by Gov. Scott Walker.

"Great Outdoors Month is an opportunity to celebrate and experience the many outdoor activities Wisconsin has to offer and to renew our commitment to conserving our air water and land," according to the proclamation.

The President and all 50 state governors were asked to issue similar proclamations, according to the American Recreation Coalition, which is coordinating the effort to garner similar support this year to highlight the benefits of active fun outdoors and the shared resources of forests, parks, refuges and other public lands and waters.

The coalition is encouraging people to take part in a variety of events and activities that take place in June, including National Trails Day, June 6; National Fishing and Boating Week, June 6-14; National Marina Day, June 13, National Get Outdoors Day, June 13; Great Outdoors Month National Day of Service, June 19; and the Great American Campout, June 27.

"Wisconsin's vast natural and cultural resources provide citizens and visitors opportunities to hike, bike, fish, camp, swim, learn about nature, and enjoy numerous other outdoor activities on public and private lands, in urban green spaces, and suburban backyards," Governor Walker's proclamation states.

In Wisconsin there will also be a celebration of the 50th anniversary on the Rails to Trails program in Wisconsin on National Trails Day, which is also the first day of Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin, June 6 & 7, when state park admission stickers and trail passes, fishing licenses and out of state all-terrain vehicle trail passes are waived.

Great Outdoors Month was first acknowledged by the White House in 1997, and has received presidential recognition annually since 2004. It highlights the benefits of outdoor activity and focuses attention on our natural resources, including parks, forests and other public lands and waters.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Peter Biermeier, recreation, planning and development chief, 608-264-6136 or Paul Holtan - 608-267-7517



Comments sought on proposed statewide general permit for maintenance dredging

MADISON -- Maintenance dredging of navigable waterways would undergo a quicker, less expensive review as part of a proposed general permit process now up for public comment.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is accepting comments on the proposed statewide general permit through June 29, 2015.

Heidi Kennedy, statewide waterway and wetland policy coordinator, said the ability to develop the streamlined general permit process was created by a change in waterway laws in 2012 under 2011 Wisconsin Act 167. The proposed statewide general permit for the removal of previously dredged areas would modify an existing general permit for maintenance dredging that was created in Wis. Admin. Code NR 345.

The proposed statewide general permit also provides more flexibility for property owners to document an area of navigable waters where dredging previously occurred.

The statewide general permit process ensures applicants receive a decision within 30 days. Issued permits are good for five years.

The proposed general permit and environmental impact documents can be reviewed by searching the DNR website,, for "dredging." Submit written comments by June 29 to Heidi Kennedy, statewide waterway and wetland policy coordinator, GEF II DNR Central Office, 101 S. Webster St., Madison, Wis., 53703 or email:

Two informational hearings will be held.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Heidi Kennedy, DNR statewide waterway and wetland policy coordinator, 608-261-6430,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,



Wisconsin businesses honored for improving air quality

MILWAUKEE--- Three Wisconsin businesses were honored recently by the Wisconsin Partners for Clean Air (exit DNR) for their voluntary efforts to improve air quality.

The awards were presented during the 2015 Clean Air Extravaganza at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce on Thursday, May 21. The Clean Air Extravaganza is an event to celebrate the accomplishments of Wisconsin businesses and organizations that are improving air quality by reducing emissions from their facilities and fleets, improving energy efficiency, providing employee commuter options, and developing ways to educate the public about air quality issues. The Wisconsin Partners for Clean Air is a coalition of over 250 businesses, community organizations, schools and government agencies committed to improving air quality through voluntary action.

Department of Natural Resources Secretary's Director of the Southeast Region, Eric Nitschke, presented awards to the following organizations:

More details of award recipients are posted at: (exit DNR).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Jessica Lawent, air management specialist, 414-263-8653 or Peter McMullen, program and policy analyst, 414-263-8751



Invader Crusaders receive recognition at annual award ceremony June 4

MADISON -- The 11th annual Invader Crusader Award ceremony will take place June 4, 1 p.m. at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison. The public is invited to attend.

The Invader Crusader awards are presented annually by the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council to honor Wisconsin citizens and organizations--both volunteer and professional--for their significant contributions to the prevention, management, education, or research of invasive species that harm Wisconsin's land and waters. The award recognizes efforts at all scales--from neighborhoods to statewide parks, lakes and forests. This year, a total of nine awards will be presented to individuals and groups from around the state.

"2015 marks another great year in the effort to control invasive species and reduce their impacts on the state," said Jack Sullivan, Department of Natural Resources representative on the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council. "Each year it is important to recognize those dedicated individuals and groups who make a difference in their communities by taking action against invasive species."

The Invader Crusader Awards ceremony kicks off Invasive Species Awareness Month, which runs through June. Invasive Species Awareness Month aims to raise awareness on the impacts of invasive species which threaten Wisconsin's water and land by displacing native plants and animals and by disrupting natural habitat systems. Invasives also threaten the productivity and economic viability of Wisconsin's agricultural and forest lands by creating overwhelming competition with crops and harming trees.

The awards ceremony will be followed by public tours of the gardens.

The Wisconsin Legislature created the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council in 2001. The Council is charged with providing recommendations to the Wisconsin DNR on invasive species classification and allocation of funds of invasive species control and conducting studies of issues related to controlling invasive species.2015 Invader Crusader Award Winners

Volunteer Individual Category

Volunteer Group Category

Professional Individual Category

Professional Individual Category

Organization Category

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Dreux Watermolen, social science services section chief, 608-266-8931,


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Last Revised: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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