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Brainstorming on site of the former landfill generates ideas

Jim Reimer from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is flanked by Ed Schachtner, town chairman, and Jeff Johnson, village president, during a meeting at the site of the old landfill on Thursday, Jan. 14. Various people from the town, Department of Natural Resources, village, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Somerset Fire/Rescue and Prairie Enthusiasts met to discuss possibilities for the 50-acre site located off 45th Street in the northern part of Somerset.1 / 2
Several meeting members trooped along the snow-covered trail at the site of the old landfill. The meeting was to see if there was any interest in developing the land for habitat, as representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service were in attendance.2 / 2

About 20 people attended a brainstorming meeting at the site of the former Somerset landfill on Thursday, Jan. 14.

Members of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Village of Somerset, Town of Somerset, Somerset Fire/Rescue, Department of Natural Resources and Prairie Enthusiasts met to discuss possibilities for revitalizing the 50-acre area.

Joel Kemm, fire specialist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, addressed the crowd about what his organization could do for the property.

"We've walked portions of this area and we have habitat in mind," Kemm said. "We could partner with you, the DNR and any other agencies who would want to dedicate their money or volunteer time."

In developing a habitat for the area, they recommended getting rid of the red cedar trees that dot the landscape, as they said it was an invasive species and would multiply rapidly over the next few years.

They also suggested not having too many walking trails that would disrupt the burgeoning prairie area, as they could be "predator corridors."

Jeff Johnson, Somerset village president, said the village board had discussed possibly linking up with the St. Croix bicycle trail as a stopping off point.

The possibility of toilets was dismissed as Larry Germain, Somerset Township, said they could not drill wells on the property.

"But we could probably have an open shelter like in Veterans Park," Germain offered.

He went on to tell the crowd that re-establishing the land as prairie would include seeding, tree removal, chemical application and the like. For only focusing on 20 acres, he estimated it would cost $5,000; for 30 acres it would cost approximately $6,000.

Kemm said if the village and town were willing to go that route, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would provide reimbursement.

"We would identify what would be spent, the village and town would have to hire the people to do it, and we'd ask that you couldn't do anything else with the land for about 10 years," Kemm said. "Then it would be 100 percent recoverable."

Shawn Schottler, town resident and one of the coordinators for the meeting, suggested the town and village communicate with the neighbors of the area to let them know what they ultimately plan for the land.

"Back in 1847, there were no trees out here, it was just prairie," Schottler said. "If you decide habitat and authenticity are your goals, be prepared to answer questions when the fire burning starts and the trees are cut."

Germain said they would want to keep the perimeter trees so it wouldn't affect the neighbors.

The group also discussed the possibility for allowing deer and pheasant hunting on the land.

Harvey Halverson, biologist from the DNR in Baldwin, said allowing hunting would eliminate establishing the area as a deer refuge.

"You could have limited activity on the property, but no wells, septic or enclosed structures, and a 6-inch post in the ground could not be on top of the actual landfill," Halverson explained.

The group decided to formally address the issue at the joint meeting between the Somerset Village and Township on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the Town Hall. The public is welcome to attend.