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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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Urban outdoor skills classes promote recreation to urban residents. © Robert Queen

June 2002

Providing access to the outdoors

Enjoy outdoor recreation across southeast Wisconsin.

Natasha Kassulke

Urban outdoor skills classes promote recreation to urban residents.

© Robert Queen
Fishing for the future | Outdoor skills
Emphasizing people's abilities
Hmong have a helping hand in Kou Xiong
Brownfields get a second life | Beach Task Force
Accessing inland lakes, rivers and lands

Dressed from head to toe in camouflage, A.J. Howard, 8, of Milwaukee recites his interests: fishing, hiking and 4-wheeling.

But at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show, A.J. also was introduced to rock climbing, camping displays and the "Into the Outdoors" kids TV show.

A.J.'s advice to kids of all ages: "Be patient, bring a snack and get outdoors."

The Department of Natural Resources offers educational programs and information about exploring resources - water, trails, campsites and more make the outdoors accessible to people like A.J. who live in the city.


Fishing for the future

To reach a young audience, DNR works with local fishing clubs to offer angler education and fishing clinics throughout the Southeast Region.

"Our programs are aimed at kids who don't have a way to learn fishing skills," explains Matt Coffaro, SER's regional fisheries biologist.

Earlier this year, ice-fishing clinics held at five ponds drew 250 kids, even though the winter was too warm to hold the clinics on ice.

Last year, 1,750 kids attended spring fishing clinics held at 12 county park ponds and lagoons (nine in Milwaukee County, one in Racine and two in Waukesha). The angler education program also gets people to urban ponds and lagoons that are stocked with fish.

"This year we're stocking 75,900 rainbow trout in 54 urban parks ponds and lagoons – the fish size averages just over nine inches," Coffaro says.

Coffaro credits DNR's partners for making urban fishing education a success, including local fishing clubs and the fish hatchery at the Milwaukee County House of Corrections that helps by stocking trout and panfish.

For more information, call Cheryl Peterson at (414) 263-8662 or Coffaro at (414) 263-8614.

Outdoor skills

Michelle Grimm is DNR's urban outdoor skills coordinator. Stationed in Milwaukee, she's responsible for introducing the region's urban families to outdoor skills, promoting recreation events, recruiting and training volunteer instructors, and developing partnerships to sponsor outdoor events.

Outdoor skills include hunting, fishing, cider pressing, snowshoeing, trapping, orienteering, camping, canoeing, outdoor cooking, bird watching, hiking, biking, animal and track identification, and more.

"We want to help people appreciate that we have a full range of parks, trails, forests, beaches, lakeshores and even archaeological sites in this region," Grimm says.

Call Grimm at (414) 263-8619.

Emphasizing people's abilities

Matt Pipp, 26, of Oconomowoc, has cerebral palsy but it hasn't stopped him from pursuing a passion for hunting.

"The DNR has been very helpful when I hunt," Pipp says. "They told me that I can get a permit to shoot from a stationary vehicle and shoot a crossbow." Many people with disabilities like Pipp fully enjoy Wisconsin's state parks, forest, trails and other areas that offer accessible campground sites and cabins.

Most picnic areas, park offices and toilet/shower buildings are accessible. State laws provide hunting, fishing and recreational use permits for people with disabilities. Application forms for licenses and permits can be downloaded from Licenses and Permits for People with Disabilities. Discounted licenses are available at DNR service centers or county clerk's office. Customers must provide proof they are receiving disability insurance when applying.

"Don't ever give up," Pipp stresses. "Everyone, no matter if they are disabled or not should be able to enjoy the outdoors."

Hmong have a helping hand in Kou Xiong

As the DNR's Hmong liaison, Kou Xiong, works with Hmong and Laotian populations statewide to help translate fishing and hunting guidance. He has presented programs at the Milwaukee Laos Family Community, Inc. and holds a Hmong Education Advancement summer class.

"Many of the people who I work with are interested in hunter safety classes," Xiong says. "I also am working with Southeast Region DNR staff to find Hmong instructors."

When questions about fish advisories and fishing regulations arise in the region, Xiong recites public service announcements on the Hmong-language radio in Milwaukee. Call (414) 385-3380 for information. To reach Xiong call (715) 839-1638 or e-mail Kou Xiong.

Brownfields get a second life

Restoring "brownfields" means restoring access to abandoned lands. These forgotten commercial or industrial properties can be expanded or redeveloped once they are inspected, cleaned up and decontaminated. They are usually in the city with ready access to sewer, water, energy and a workforce. Communities benefit as brownfields recover – acres of contaminated land cleaned up, property tax base increases, green spaces restored, and jobs.

Nancy Ryan, a DNR hydrogeologist in Plymouth, points to the Sheboygan Lakefront Property as one project that may lead to greater public access to Lake Michigan. Formerly the C. Reiss Coal property, the area was a storage site for coal, salt, fuel oil and fertilizer for nearly 100 years. More recently, the City of Sheboygan bought the property with plans to redevelop it, add a fishing pier and link to the city river walk.

Call (800) 367-6076 or visit Remediation and Redevelopment Program for information on brownfields.

Beach Task Force

Sharon Gayan, Milwaukee River Basin leader, says the Department of Natural Resources and its partners are examining how to keep one of the region's tremendous assets – the Lake Michigan coastline-accessible and enjoyable.

The Southeast Wisconsin Beach Task Force formed in 2000 to investigate causes of Lake Michigan beach closings and to recommend improvements to ensure public beaches stay open and healthy.

Studies are underway to pinpoint sources of bacterial contamination that leads to beach closings. Shoreland accessibility and water quality go hand-in-hand. © Robert Queen
Studies are underway to pinpoint sources of bacterial contamination that leads to beach closings. Shoreland accessibility and water quality go hand-in-hand.

© Robert Queen

The task force wants to determine the sources of E. coli bacteria and other pathogens (microbes capable of causing disease) that warranted beach closings because they may pose health risks to beachgoers.

South Shore Beach in Milwaukee, for example, was closed a record 42 days of the swimming season in 2000. To learn more visit Beach Monitoring & Notification.

Accessing inland lakes, rivers and lands

While most lakes in the Southeast Region have adequate public access, there are a few larger lakes without enough launch sites for motorboaters.

"It's our goal to provide public access to all lakes," says Tom Blotz, Southeast Region government outreach team supervisor.

DNR staff works with local governments, lake associations and others to identify and acquire sites for public access and to help with funding to purchase, develop and renovate public boat ramps.

Recent projects have included buying and developing a public access site at Lake Keesus in Waukesha County; renovating a boat ramp at Lake Nagawicka in Waukesha County; and renovating a public access site at Silver Lake in Kenosha County.

The Southeast Region published a free inland lakes access guide for Waukesha, Washington, Walworth, Sheboygan, Racine and Kenosha counties. Copies are available at SER service centers (Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties are not included in the guide because there are no inland lakes with public access).

Likewise, Blotz says companion DNR programs are acquiring property through purchase and donation for recreational lands, habitat preservation, wildlife watching and for preserving plant and animal species, wetlands and other environmental corridors. For more information, call Dave Dahms at (414) 263-8670 or Blotz at (414) 263-8610.

Natasha Kassulke is the associate editor of the Wisconsin Natural Resources.