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Superior gets major grant for Wisconsin Point project

An aerial view of Wisconsin Point in Superior. (2016 file / Superior Telegram)

MADISON — The city of Superior was the big winner in statewide grants announced earlier this month for shoreline and recreational improvements.

The city received a $1.375 million Coastal Management Program grant for the restoration of dunes along Wisconsin Point and a $24,664 grant to fund a comprehensive outdoor recreation plan.

Funding for Wisconsin Point restoration comes after years of planning, design and public input, said Linda Cadotte, Superior’s Parks, Recreation and Forestry director. However, before any of the work can begin this fall, representatives of area tribes must be consulted.

“Wisconsin Point is considered a burial ground ... an area of extreme cultural sensitivity and (improvements) require federal agency and tribal review,” she said.

The planned restoration work would remove invasive plants, close 15 public access points, improve five existing access points, stabilize shoreline, dunes and wetlands, construct an ADA-compliant boardwalk and consolidate parking areas.

The number of parking stalls would be increased from approximately 144 to 170 but would be grouped in fewer areas.

Wisconsin Point is part of nine sites in the federally-designated St. Louis River Area of Concern, said Matt Steiger of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The planned improvements represent one step in the effort to address impairments to wildlife habitat in the region.

“This is a great step for everyone involved, the city, the landowners, tribal interests and the DNR,” Steiger said.

He called Wisconsin Point “a unique habitat” for fish and wildlife. The project is not just pushing around a lot of sand; its goal is to connect habitat and reduce disturbance from human contact in a way that balances natural and recreational interests.

“Bugs, birds and fish all use nearshore areas and the dunes, the grasses and bays are all microhabitats, which you can’t find elsewhere,” he said.

Most of the construction work will not begin until next spring and could be completed over several months, said Cadotte.

A second grant funds Superior’s first comprehensive outdoor recreation plan with a matching share provided by the city. The city has a number of master plans for its parks, some about seven years old. A comprehensive plan would tie them together and develop a strategy to manage them. The study also would identify opportunities to connect recreational trails, provide disc golf, pickleball and other recreational activities not currently offered.

Public input will be sought in developing the comprehensive recreational plan and then it will be the City Council’s role to determine which facilities would be funded, Cadotte said.

The city is heavily dependent on the Coastal Management Program to fund parkland acquisitions and capital projects like the restoration of Wisconsin Point, said Cadotte. The federally-funded program faces drastic cuts under the budget proposed by the Trump administration.

“That and other programs are in jeopardy. All of our boat launches, (including) Loon’s Foot Landing, have had significant support from the Coastal Management Program. Our community would be nowhere in terms of providing recreational access without this funding,” she said.

A $24,000 grant also was awarded to the Douglas County Land and Water Conservation Department to fund a well-testing program to determine a baseline for groundwater quality in the county and increase public awareness of groundwater resources.

The department sought the grant after evaluating baseline groundwater quality was discussed as a priority as Douglas County supervisors explored how to manage concentrated animal feeding operations over the last year.

The $1.375 million grant for Wisconsin Point was the largest of the 34 federally-funded grants totaling $2.4 million that Gov. Scott Walker’s office announced last week.

The state reported that other grants included:

• $80,000 for the city of Ashland to “create final design and construction plans, and bidding documents, for the redevelopment of Ore Dock Park.”

• $63,360 for the town of La Pointe on Madeline Island for the “preconstruction phase of the Town Dock expansion,” including final design and bid documents, and permitting.

• $30,000 to Bayfield County to “develop a digital interactive hydrological atlas that provides an inventory and analysis of groundwater conditions” in the county.