DNR angling to purchase Cedar Lake School
It might be changing hands, but most users of the Cedar Lake School and its parking lot won't notice any differences in the near future.
At a special Town of Alden Board meeting on Jan. 10, residents voted 11 to 9 to approve the sale of the school and its lot to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for $36,000.
The next step is to get the town board's approval by Feb. 15. They will discuss the sale at their Feb. 12 meeting. If approved by the board, the state will then have to approve the sale.
Unless something changes between now and the meeting, Town of Alden Chairman Brad Johnson said he expects the sale to go through.
"The board's primary mission is to assure that a future board won't sell it to a private party," Johnson explained. "Our board is definitely not interested in selling to a private party but that doesn't mean a future board wouldn't."
To prevent a private property sale from ever happening, the town, the Cedar Lake District and the Star Prairie Fish and Game approached the DNR to buy the property.
The school is important to area boaters and lake goers because of its close proximity to Cedar Lake. It sits across the street from the town's park and public boat ramp, making its parking lot a popular place during busy seasons.
Without the school's lot, there would be only three parking spots for public access to the largest lake in St. Croix County, said Marty Engel, DNR senior fisheries biologist. The lot currently has no provisions requiring public parking.
The Town of Alden began looking into the future of the school property about three years ago, Johnson said. Residents and outdoorsmen worried that the property would become privately owned, thus limiting the lake's access.
The Osceola School District took control of the property in 1960 and used the school for classes until 1983. At that time, the district gave the town the property, as long as it was used as a community center and maintenance was handled, Johnson said. Unknown to the town until later in the process, the property was deeded back to the town with no strings attached in 1992, he added.
The Cedar Lake Community Club took on the school in 1983. In years past, they hosted dances, 4-H meetings, pancake breakfasts and other events, said treasurer Kathy Kloetzke. Regular events now include card parties and an Easter egg hunt. The building is also rented for family gatherings and parties.
With their membership now at eight people and with an average age around 60, the club's capability to handle maintenance and funding in the future is questionable.
"We've been able to keep it up but now things are beginning to get a little older and more expensive," said Kloetzke. "We just don't have money for that."
In the near future, the building could need new siding, shingles and handicap access. According to a presentation at the special meeting, it's estimated that it will take $30,463 to get new windows, siding and shingles on the building.
If the sale to the DNR is approved by the board, the Cedar Lake Community Club will have five years to use the building. At the end of the time period, the club will be allowed to add another five years, providing they can still handle the maintenance and the building is safe.
"We'll just run it for five years or whenever we can," Kloetzke said. "If the DNR kicks us out, we'll go then I guess."
Engel said it's not the DNR's intent to kill the club, but rather maintain the public lake access.
"No one is trying to force them out. We're trying to accommodate everyone," he said.
If the sale goes through, the town will still be required to mow, plow, grade and gravel the parking lot for 20 years.
Maintenance agreements are common in this area, Engel said. There is also a 20 year agreement at Bass Lake.
The board isn't worried about that, Johnson said. They've already been doing the work for 25 years.
Even though the majority of people view the sale as an inevitable change, some, including school alumni, are sad to see it leave the town's hands.
Johnson is a graduate of the school. "It's a beautiful building," he said.
"It's a historic building. There are lots of memories there," said Kloetzke, whose husband and three daughters went to the school. "A lot of things have changed for the school and not for the better."