Iron County completes Saxon land acquisition


January 3, 2018


Hurley — Even though it can’t be the site of Saxon Harbor’s campground, Iron County has completed the acquisition of a piece of land directly east of the harbor.

The county first began the process of acquiring the 115-acre parcel as part of the larger rebuilding of Saxon Harbor after it was destroyed in the July 11, 2016 storm. The property had been intended to serve as the location for the harbor’s campground after the county was prevented from rebuilding on the old campground site due to a state law preventing campgrounds from being built in a flood plain without an advance warning system. The discovery of an active eagle’s nest in May eliminated the property as the site of the campground, as federal law prohibits construction within a certain distance of an active nest.

While the land was no longer suitable for a campground, Iron County Forester Eric Peterson said the purchase continued due to the other potential uses for the site.

“What the purchase originally started off as, was a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant; and we were going to use match property — 320 acres of Iron County match properties,” Peterson said. “Then with the discovery of the eagle’s nest, the urgency to acquire the property went away because we couldn’t use it for the campground. But that parcel has long been sought after by recreation groups.”

It was these other recreational uses — including the potential for building trails on the property — that ultimately allowed the county to buy the land from the North Carolina-based Forestland Group for $250,000, with the county completing the purchase Dec. 20.

The money to buy the land included a $125,000 Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant from the state of Wisconsin and a $97,500 grant through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. While the exact amount is still being determined, Peterson said the remaining money will come from the North Country Trail Association.

“The only money Iron County is out on that parcel is for things like appraisals and some of the legwork that was done last spring when it was going to be our campground,” Peterson said. “It was money we spent anyway, so when the campground project fell through we weren’t getting that money back anyway.”

“So now we’ve got a prime piece of real estate out at the harbor for public use in perpetuity,” he said.

The North Country Trail Association’s involvement came through a plan to reroute the trail through the property eventually, although Peterson said he couldn’t speak to a timeline as the county wasn’t involved in trail construction.

North County Trail Association Wisconsin regional trail coordinator Bill Menke said it could likely be a couple years before the reroute happened.

“To be quite honest with you, (rerouting the trail onto the land) is kind of a long-term prospect,” Menke said, explaining there has to be a way to get the trail to the property before the route can officially be changed.

The property could also have other trails constructed on it, in addition to the North County Trail.

“The North Country Trail is going to be on it for sure. There still may be the opportunities for ski trails, snowshoe trails and all those other things we were talking about having the potential to be there when it was going to be a campground there as well,” Peterson said.

He also discussed the possibility of locating some primitive campsites on the property at some point down the road, which would require a smaller footprint than the planned campground.

“It will not be motorized camping,” Peterson said.


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