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Somerset Village wants tubers out of public park

Apple River Hideaway and Float Rite Park tubing services had a business agreement through which Apple River Hideaway would pick up tubers at Float Rite Park. However, the agreement was broken, and Apple River Hideaway began picking up tubers in the Somerset Village Park.

But there has been trouble between tubers and park users in the past and the Village of Somerset wants to avoid future problems by keeping tubers out of the Village Park.

"My concern is if we permitted pickup on the west side, which is the village park ball field side," said Village President Jeff Johnson, "we don't necessarily have enough control to keep tubers away from other users of the village park."

The Village of Somerset held a special meeting June 28 to discuss the pickup of tubers by tubing companies that use village park land as an exit point and pickup location. This included Apple River Hideaway and River's Edge.

River's Edge tubing service has been using the east side of the Village Park to pick up tubers for 40 years, according to co-owner Bill Raleigh. However, according to a village ordinance, Raleigh needed written permission to do this, and while he had permission it was not in print.

Apple River Hideaway was using the west side of the village park to pick up tubers, Johnson said this is problematic because many tubers become intoxicated and the village is concerned for the safety of park users.

Because the current ordinance has not been enforced, Johnson said the village council can't keep Apple River Hideaway from using the Village Park to pick up tubers, until a new ordinance is drafted. But, the village and the tubing company owners agreed they wanted to keep tubers and park users separate to avoid trouble.

Mike Kappers, owner of Apple River Hideaway, suggested improving an emergency-access road on the east side of the river at the intersection of State Highway 35 and Parent Street for use as a pickup location for Apple River Hideaway customers.

There are a couple of complications with that plan, however. The first is that it is unclear whether the village or a private citizen owns the land the road is on.

If it is owned privately, Kappers said he has permission from the owner to improve the road and use it to bus tubers back to his business.

If the village owns the land, the process would become much more complicated, according to Village Attorney Anders Helquist. Because of the potential price of the improvements, Helquist said the city may have to follow special rules concerning construction on public property.

To further complicate things, no matter who owns the land, both the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin DNR would need to be involved, because the road to be improved would be an entry to a state highway, and the road ends near the edge of the river.

It would be a complicated solution, but it would keep tubers out of the west side of the Village Park. Johnson said the village would look further into that option and discuss it again at the next board meeting. However, due to the complications it presents, Holmquist said the board may want to wait until 2013 to begin any such project.

The board then discussed and decided on a temporary solution to keep tubers out of the west side of Village Park. The board granted Bill Raleigh and River's Edge written permission to use the east side of Village Park as an exit point for tubers. While the board is looking into a more permanent option, the board also granted Apple River Hideaway permission to use the same exit point River's Edge does.

In order to avoid confusion, Raleigh and Kappers agreed to divide tubers at the exit point where River's Edge customers will go to the River's Edge bus, and Apple River Hideaway customers will go to the Apple River Hideaway bus.

There will be another special meeting of the Somerset village Council immediately following the regular meeting on July 5 at 6 p.m.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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