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Joint boards discuss Somerset's newest park preserve

It is official: The site of the old Somerset landfill is now called "Parnell Prairie Preserve." The name was announced at the joint town and village of Somerset meeting last week.

"We decided not to put 'park' in the name because then people will think of ballparks," said Lenny Germain, town supervisor and member of the preserve committee. "Parnell" refers to the family who originally owned the 50-acre parcel.

Twenty-nine acres were burned on April 9 to clear the land for restoring native prairie grasses. Invasive species such as red cedar trees have been cut and the stumps are scheduled to be chemically-treated in the coming weeks.

A committee comprised of members from the town and village have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Somerset Fire/Rescue, Department of Natural Resources and Prairie Enthusiasts to revert the land back to a native wildlife habitat.

Although there are walking paths throughout the acreage, hunting is allowed on the property. Germain said he has already received a call concerning firearms on the land.

"Turkey season ends June 1, and small game hunting opens back up around Sept. 15," Germain said. "Maybe we can put a sign out front saying that would be when firearms would be in use."

Jeff Johnson, village president, thought that would be a good compromise.

"I think that is reasonable, then we aren't violating anyone's use of the property," he said.

Shane Demulling, town supervisor, expressed his concern about firearms in a place where there are walking trails.

"Have you ever thought of just opening for gun season in the fall?" Demulling asked. "I'm a little cautious about firearms and the families out hiking with kids."

Greg Sayers, village board trustee, agreed.

"When you have a family out there and they hear gunshots..." Sayers commented.

Germain suggested putting that issue on the town board's agenda for their next meeting.

Dave Carufel, village board trustee and member of the preserve committee, said Shawn Schottler had collected seeds from the area and is willing to work with the Prairie Enthusiasts to plan out the planting.

"When they start talking about 100 different kinds of grasses, I don't know the difference," Carufel said. "I say let them handle that; they are the experts."

Demulling suggested that the village and town put up signs identifying what is being planted out there.

"Otherwise, people will show up and think it's dandelions or something," he said.

In other news:

• Travis Belisle, chief of Somerset Fire/Rescue, gave the boards the department's quarterly budget and report. The boards approved.

Belisle said the eight-wheel utility vehicle they use for off road fire-fighting was damaged during the April 23 fire near the Somerset Elementary school. He didn't know the extent of the damage at the meeting.

• Pam Donohoe, village clerk, and Belisle told the boards the fire department had signed an agreement with the village saying as part of the conditional use permit for concerts, a fee will go toward Somerset Fire/Rescue, regardless of whether their services are used or not. The fee will go toward having personnel and equipment on call for the duration of the event.

• The Somerset Village and Somerset Town boards meet quarterly. The next meeting is Tuesday, July 27, at the Town Hall. The public is welcome to attend.