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Town, village plan for prairie at old landfill

Both the Village and Town of Somerset listened to a presentation about the proposed prairie park at the site of the old landfill during their joint meeting last week.

The approximately 50-acre property is co-owned by the village and town, and has been out of use for years. Some ideas that had been suggested were to put soccer fields in or create a park with trails.

However, it is official now: The site will revert to the prairie land it was hundreds of years ago.

Jim Reamer, of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, gave a recap of what he had discussed informally with members of both boards and other interested parties at a meeting at the site in January.

He explained that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service works with private landowners (of which the village and town would be included) to develop habitats or improve existing habitats.

"There is a nice prairie remnant in the old dump area," Reamer said. "What we'd like to do with the village and town is augment what you already have."

Although the details would have to be worked out, Reamer said that, based on his knowledge of the property, there would be some controlled burning as well as removal of some of the invasive trees like red cedar.

He explained that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service would work with the boards to establish a plan and they would reimburse the municipalities up to a certain amount.

"I don't have an estimate of what it will cost," Reamer began, "this is a multi-year project. But I'd say this first year will cost at least $5,000. However, there are also other pools of money to draw from."

Jeff Johnson, village president, told the board that hunting could still take place on the land, especially for pheasants.

Trails could also exist, though Reamer warned that too many would be a threat to wildlife. Motorized vehicles, Johnson said, would not be allowed.

"We would want to know ahead of time what you want for the land," Reamer said. "There is usually the obligatory 10-year period for the initial acreage."

"If there is no cost to us, I'm all in favor," said Lenny Germain, town board member.

Dave Carufel and Germain were selected to represent the village and town boards, respectively. The boards approved pursuing a contract with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and they will take it back to their separate boards for action.

The landfill park does not have a name yet, but suggestions have centered on the Parnell family, as they had been identified as the owners prior to the municipalities

"People have been calling it Parnell Park Preserve," said Ed Schachtner, town chairman. "But we'll let the Parks & Recreation Committee work on it."

In other news:

• Travis Belisle, fire chief for Somerset Fire/Rescue, submitted his department's budget for the year, noting that they were only $17 over budget this past year. The boards approved.

• The Students Taking Action in a New Direction group from Somerset High School gave a presentation regarding how underage drinking in Wisconsin is on the rise. They asked both boards to proclaim April and May as "Parents Who Host, Lose the Most" months to raise awareness that serving alcohol to minors is breaking the law. The boards approved.

• The next joint meeting of the Town and Village of Somerset will be April 28 at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall. The public is welcome to attend.