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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gold at the End of the Rainbow?

Just visited friends with really cool digs – a crumbling, some say cursed, old failed resort along the lovely Mukwonago River. They’re worried about their future because the state bought all 970 acres of the old Rainbow Springs Resort using the so-called Stewardship Fund with the intention of scrapping the decrepit buildings, restoring an old golf course to prairie, and opening the acreage to nature based recreation including hunting and trapping (yikes!). They say it was the most expensive conservation purchase ever in southern Wisconsin, so you can bet the state is hell-bent to accomplish their mission.

Or maybe not. The old private golf course had been allowed to operate until last fall, sending fertilizer into the pristine Mukwonago. It’s now closed, but local golfers aren’t happy and are lobbying to get it back. I feel for my friends and all, but I'm not so sure a lot of Kentucky Blue and a private golf course is the "nature based recreation" envisioned for the property. And given it was purchased with taxpayer funds, it all seems a little stinky to me.

Turns out that back in 2008 when the state bought the property, then Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker called it a waste of taxpayer’s money. Scott Gunderson, formerly the state representative for the area, is now the Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the DNR, the agency charged with managing the land. A meeting was held a few weeks ago to get public input on how the property should be restored and the types of nature-based activities allowed, and when the private golf course was raised, Mr. Gunderson certainly didn’t pooh-pooh the idea. Hey, maybe this could be a way to offset all that “wasted” taxpayer money? Or could this be the nose under the camel’s tent toward privatization of our public lands?

I’m not too worried though - golf courses don’t quite meet the criteria for how Stewardship funds can be spent, so state law would have to be changed to allow it. A big change like that would need lots of public discussion and careful consideration and could take years. Hey, wait a second……………

posted by the River Rat

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