The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Forestry committee recommends new Saxon Harbor campground site


Map provided by Forest Administrator Eric Peterson

THE IRON County Forestry Committee decides Tuesday to recommend Location 2 on the above map for the new site of Saxon Harbor's campground, east of the marina. The shaded portions of the map are land Iron County already owns, while it's in the process of acquiring the blue-outlined part of the map.


Hurley - With the Federal Emergency Management Agency's approval to move the campground at Saxon Harbor, the Iron County Forestry and Parks Committee voted Tuesday to recommend the Iron County Board of Supervisors choose a new location east of the harbor.

County Forestry and Parks Administrator Eric Peterson laid out two potential sites on the property for the campground.

"Location one is approximately 3.3 acres and is directly east of the harbor on top of the hill. Location two is about 3.8 acres and it's the next ravine - or hilltop - to the east," Peterson said. "The views are similar - I mean you're looking out over the lake - I mean you can see the (harbor's) break walls out of both of them."

The committee chose the 3.8 acre site farther from the harbor, in part due to concerns the narrow layout of the closer site would limit the development options.

There had been some question whether FEMA would fully fund the campground on a different site after the former site was destroyed in the flooding during the July 11 storm.

FEMA only issues funds to return disaster-hit areas to the state they were in the day prior to the disaster.

Peterson has previously said this means while the county will be reimbursed for 87.5 percent of the actual costs of rebuilding the harbor - 75 percent from FEMA and another 12.5 percent from Wisconsin Emergency Management - the county will be on the hook for any additional costs that result from significant changes to the existing design.

While moving the campground would certainly have counted as an improved project that also caps the funding the county receives to the estimated costs rather than the actual costs. A state law prohibiting the construction of a campground in a floodplain without a sufficient warning system prevented the county from rebuilding the campground in the same location.

With the previous location off the table, the county began to examine an 115-acre parcel of land directly east of the harbor owned by the Forestland Group.

While the county hasn't officially acquired the land, it has finalized a purchase option for the property that is contingent on the county receiving a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant to finance the purchase.

While the county has tentatively been awarded the grant, it still needs to pass the state's Joint Finance Committee, but Peterson said he didn't expect there to be issues. The county is adding 520 acres to the county forest and using money donated by a non-profit as the local match for the grant.

The county will receive funds for 26 sites at the new location, the number of sites in the old campground. It can build additional sites, but would bear the full costs of the extra work.

"FEMA is going to pay for what we lost, and that's 26 sites," Peterson said.

The county will need to extend the road to the site, as well as bring utilities there. A well will also be dug. Peterson said there will be funding for all these requirements as the former campground had these amenities.

"In the original plan, they weren't going to include a well because we had the well by the pavilion. So if we had of put the campground back, we'd have already had the well - but because we had to relocate (it's covered)," Peterson said. "They weren't going to include power, at the old campground, because that was an insurance-covered item."

He said FEMA will now cover getting power to the campground and it remains to be seen whether FEMA or the insurance will cover installing power in the campground itself. The road, a RV sanitation dump station and culvert work will also be funded to make the site ready for camping.

There would be trail access to the lake from the campground, Peterson said, included in the design of the new campground.

As both sites could be developed in the future, the county could possibly save money to extend the utilities to the farther site now - while most of the cost is being paid by other entities - and work back toward the harbor with future developments.

The distance to bring electricity to the sites are about the same whether it's from County A or up the hill from the harbor, meaning Peterson doesn't expect FEMA to have a preference if costs are comparable.

There was some discussion of locating the campground somewhere else near the harbor, but it was ultimately decided that could be explored as a future expansion.

Other locations are also complicated by the fact that land acquisitions aren't covered by FEMA and the stewardship funds are the only reason the county is acquiring the land east of the harbor.

"Our hands are tied in so many ways," committee member Bill Thomas said.

While the county board still needs to approve the choice, Peterson said he will already submit the site choice to FEMA to get a jump on the process. He said this doesn't prevent the county board from choosing a different site.


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