Leaders grapple with pointEveryone has a viewpoint on Wisconsin Point. Some call it a treasure, “the most beautiful landscape in Superior,” an asset. Others refer to it as the Wild West, “filthy and strewn with trash,” pathetic.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Everyone has a viewpoint on Wisconsin Point. Some call it a treasure, “the most beautiful landscape in Superior,” an asset. Others refer to it as the Wild West, “filthy and strewn with trash,” pathetic.
When a group from the Leadership Superior/Douglas County program decided to tackle the issues on Wisconsin Point this fall; they started by getting the public involved. A poll was offered online through the Superior Telegram and Duluth News Tribune Web sites. Responses ranged from praise for the site’s beauty to frustration over poor road condition and unending litter.
“Most responses came back ‘It’s beautiful, a nice place, but …’” said Joe Grammond, general accounting supervisor for the Duluth News Tribune and a member of the leadership group.
“It’s beautiful and natural,” wrote one of the 55 respondents. “Just clean it up.”
When asked what improvements they would like to see on Wisconsin Point, a 203-acre peninsula mostly owned by the city of Superior, people proposed everything from bathrooms and memorial benches to restaurants and a bike trail. The changes that got the highest votes were fixing the road (31), putting out garbage and recycling cans (24) and cleaning up the garbage (18). The most common opinion about the condition of Wisconsin Point was that it has too much trash.
“I’m not surprised with what people had to say,” said Mary Morgan, parks and recreation administrator for Superior. Littering is a constant concern on Wisconsin Point and other remote areas of the city, including the Superior Municipal Forest. No solution has been found, but not from lack of trying.
When Morgan started with the parks and recreation department, there were dumpsters along Wisconsin Point Road. They would fill with appliances, furniture and other inappropriate items.
“More than once, the garbage was lighted on fire,” she said, and the dumpsters themselves burned. They were removed about 10 years ago and signs warning people to “Pack out what you pack in” were placed along the point, modeled after Wisconsin State Parks.
Dirty diapers, fast food wrappers and broken glass continued to infiltrate the site.
The Superior City Council launched an initiative to place six 90-gallon city trash cans on Wisconsin Point, each painted Lake Superior blue.
“I believe they were gone within 24 hours,” Morgan said. “It was quite heartbreaking.”
For a few summers, the city hired two seasonal workers to spend 20 hours a week cleaning up Wisconsin Point and Dutchman’s Creek.
The city also hired a youth group in Duluth to collect garbage on the point every other week. The positions were lost to budget cuts in 2004, Morgan said.
This isn’t the first leadership group to rally in support of Wisconsin Point improvements. Since the program began in 1991, the natural spit of land has been a recurring topic of interest.
“We’re all struggling with Wisconsin Point,” said Geof Wendorf, director of the Leadership Superior/Douglas County program.
Past groups have created brochures and a slideshow for youth on the condition of the site. These leaders are forging a new path.
“I see so much potential for this Wisconsin Point group,” Wendorf said. “They’re doing the right things, expanding beyond their group of five or six and engaging the public.”
He expressed hope that the poll results would be brought before the city council, as well.
Al Pettingill, a member of the Wisconsin Point group and facilities manager for Minnesota Power, said they will take the information collected and set an achievable goal. For instance, getting garbage cans back on the point during the summer months – perhaps metal cans with small holes for garbage mounted on poles that are cemented into the ground.
Grammond said he was interested in a suggestion given by Bill Wildenberg of South Range. When he responded to the poll, Wildenberg mentioned that he has “adopted” lot 7, picking up trash twice a week.
“It does seem like an endless task, always new debris and diapers laying around, but I feel it is one area that will be relatively safe to bring my granddaughter,” he wrote.
He asked if a program could be developed to allow volunteers or groups to adopt lots along the point.
“Cleaning up the point is too daunting when you think of it as a whole, but divided not so bad,” Wildenberg wrote.
He isn’t alone. The Rotaract Club of Wisconsin Point, a Rotary-sponsored service club based at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, performs regular semester clean-ups of Wisconsin Point.
Morgan said many volunteer groups hold one-day clean-ups on the point’s beaches.
“Sometimes we don’t even know they’re there,” she said.
If they did, the department could provide trash bags and other resources.
Another thing that has helped is the Wisconsin Point curfew.
Instituted in 2003, it prohibits motor vehicle traffic and parking past the first parking lot from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. with the exception of smelting season.
Other rules – such as no glass containers allowed on the point – have had little effect.
Many of the poll respondents mentioned concerns over broken glass on Wisconsin Point.
“I know people are very frustrated with our ability to care for the property,” Morgan said, but she noted that maintenance for the seasonal spot is “usage driven.”
“The level of service is driven by the resources available,” Morgan added.
Pettingill said the leadership group has already made an impact on Wisconsin Point. While photographing the site this September, they noticed an electric box with exposed wires hanging from it at parking lot 22. The box was brought to Morgan’s attention, Pettingill said, and the wires were capped.
With the poll results in front of them, members of the leadership group will sit down in January and decide how best to aid Superior’s treasure. They may even head to City Hall.
“A journey of 1,000 miles starts with a first step,” Pettingill said.