Iron County Board evicts Harvest Camp from land
HURLEY - The Iron County Board of Supervisors moved to evict the LCO Harvest Camp and Educational Program from county land during a special meeting Thursday.
For more than an hour, members of the county board met with legal counsel to discuss enforcing the county's camping ordinance. In December, the Iron County Forestry, Recreation and Parks Committee approved a recommendation to the county board to have the camp evicted for being in violation of the ordinance.
People cannot camp on county property for more than 14 consecutive nights. Since last spring, people have been staying at the camp on five acres of county property on Moore Park Road, near the proposed iron ore mine in Upson..
The board listened to public comment for nearly an hour, with many citing similarities between the camp and the ice caves near Bayfield.
Speakers said more than 5,000 people have visited the camp, comparing it to the thousands of visitors to the Caves.
"We had 5,000 people sign in up there, but not everyone did," John Schneider, a camp resident, said. "People are not just coming for the negative reason of closing the mine, but they are discovering this area. Our goal is to get 20,000 people and we've been peaceful and operating friendly."
Paul DeMain, a spokesman for the camp, talked about "good vibes" the camp had with members of the county board until it was brought to some members' attention camp members were against the mine.
DeMain said he has personally met both people for and against the mine and was able to talk through the differences.
Some spoke about making maple syrup and maple sugar at the camp and selling it, calling it "Penokee Gold."
On Saturday, a feast and tree-tapping ceremony was set to begin the maple syrup process. DeMain invited the board to attend, before it voted to enforce the ordinance.
Possible litigation resulting from treaty rights being violated was mentioned.
"I don't want my tax dollars going to litigation," Jeff Wilson, of Mercer, said. "In closed session, think of the negative ramifications that could come from this."
For other residents, timing of the camp seemed suspicious.
"You all talk about being together and doing these wonderful things like working together and providing education," Dorrene O'Donnell, executive director of the Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce, said. "Why were you not here before all this happened? You may have been coming here as individuals, but before the mine, you weren't meeting as a group, and if you were, we weren't hearing about it."
After an hour's closed session, supervisor Tom Thompson Jr., of Mercer, moved to enforce the county's ordinance, based on state statutes, and authorize the Iron County Sheriff's Department to eject people at the camp by "any lawful means necessary," for being in violation of the ordinance.
The motion was seconded by Bill Thomas, of Gile, and approved 13-0 by a roll call vote, with two supervisors absent.