Four-wheelers and shorelines don't mix

Grandpa and Grandma Jones were awaiting the visit. Their son Frank and daughter-in-law Mary were arriving the next day from St. Louis along with their two teenage sons Henry and Frank Jr. Grandpa and Grandma Jones loved the visits but knew life w...

Grandpa and Grandma Jones were awaiting the visit. Their son Frank and daughter-in-law Mary were arriving the next day from St. Louis along with their two teenage sons Henry and Frank Jr. Grandpa and Grandma Jones loved the visits but knew life would not be the same for the next seven days.

Grandpa was wondering how he was going to keep his son and the two boys occupied for a week. They weren't the greatest fishermen, those grandsons, but they did like to swim and use anything with a motor. Sleep came easily that night, to the gentle sounds of crickets and tree frogs and a few mournful calls by the loon family on the lake.

With a toot of the car horn, the family arrived the next day and tumbled out of the car stiff and sore from the long drive. Immediately the boys ran to the beach and were amazed. They came dashing back out of breath excitedly with Henry exclaiming, "The beach!....It's huge! What happened to the water?"

Junior said, "We finally have a sand beach -- a big beach."

Frank and Mary couldn't resist. They paused from unpacking the trunk and walked to the beach, everyone talking at once.


As the six of them walked along, Grandpa showed them where the water line was last year and how far the lake had receded to record lows. About 15 different types of weeds and shoreline plants were growing on the newly exposed sand as the tall reeds almost blocked their path.

Henry yelled from afar, "This will be a great spot for a beach volleyball game! We can mow the weeds and it will be better for running around."

Grandpa bristled and shot his grandson a look that could stop a Rhino saying, "No you don't! No one mows this beach."

"Why not?" asked Frank Jr.

"Because when the water does come back up again," Grandpa said, "this is where the fish, minnows, crayfish and other invertebrates will live. Plus it is against the law! You cannot mow or disturb or dig out weeds along the shoreline."

Roy calmed down as they continued walking and talking about the trip, other relatives, and how their jobs were going in St. Louis.

The boys had disappeared. Frank and Mary were beginning to relax from the long drive as they made their way to the car to begin packing in the luggage, tennis rackets, golf clubs and roller blades. They heard something from the garage on the hill. The door opened from the inside and immediately one of the ATV's started rumbling and wheezing as it warmed up. Then the other one began to snort breaking the silence of the lake shore.

Grandpa looked up but was not concerned. He expected this and remembered Frank Jr. and Henry knew how to drive and were careful. They had put on many miles last year up and down the driveway, and on the approved roads in the township as well as on the assigned trails. The adults lugged in the first load and heard both 4-wheelers going around the back of the cabin, turn and head for the beach. The boys got down to the pier and paused, and just then, Grandpa had run and caught up to them, yelling above the noise, "Get those machines back in the driveway; right now!"


The boys did what they were told, and everyone met them by the cars.

"Turn off the machines," Frank said. "I think Grandpa needs to let you know the rules."

A few beers could be heard being opened with a swish, the boys went to the refrigerator for sodas and grandmas cooking pots were clanging in the kitchen. Everyone except Martha gathered around the dented and stained wooden table on the porch and watched Grandpa get out several sheets of paper.

He showed them the state statue number 30.29(2) he had obtained from the local warden and read them the law which stated, " person may operate a motor vehicle in or on any navigable water or the exposed bed of a navigable water."

Grandpa said, "The Conservation officer told me there are several exceptions to this and they involve stream crossing, agricultural activities, DNR activities, or under a permit by the DNR. During the winter, people may not drive on the shoreline either. They must enter the ice covered lake at a public place or from an established trail or road."

Now the boys were really confused.

Grandpa said, "Bottom line; the only time a 4-wheeler or truck can be used near a lake, is when you are putting your boat in or out, or working on your pier. You cannot drive on the newly exposed lake bed. Our property starts at the high water mark which is where that ice hump is down by the birch trees. We do not own the lake shore here in front. The State of Wisconsin owns the lake shore and water. We cannot do what we want to the weeds or the shoreline. We must protect the fragile sandy, muddy, weedy area and not dig it up with ugly wheel tracks."

Frank added, "Boys, the lake is a special place and the weeds and grasses keep the erosion from entering the water. Listen to Grandpa. He lives here. When the water comes up, that shoreline will be under water again and that's where all the organisms will be living that establish the food chain for the fish."


Sixteen-year-old Frank Jr. was always pushing the envelope and asked, "What's the fine if the DNR warden catches someone driving on the beach?"

Grandpa replied, "One hundred eighty-six dollars, and I'm not paying the bill!" The question fired him up again and he continued, "If I catch either of you on the beach with those machines, the keys will be taken away for the whole week. You guys ride the trails. There are hundreds of miles of trails in Douglas, Washburn and Burnett Counties that you can reach from our driveway."

Grandma came out to the porch smiling, "OK everyone, enough with the rules and regulations. The fresh bluegills are ready! Come and eat."

The boys knew they were licked. Grandpa was serious. As they approached the kitchen table they could smell the onions and fried potatoes and gazed at the platter of crisp fillets. As they sat down, both Henry and Frank Jr. were thinking, "It's going to be the trails this week, not the beach."

Bill Matthias, who resides at Bond Lake in Wascott, combines fact with fiction to address this important topic . He thanks Wisconsin Conservation Warden Lance Burns from Gordon for providing factual elements of this story. Appreciation also goes to Ted Griggs of Whitefish Lake in Wascott for his research into this topic and to Gordon DNR Ranger Mark Braasch for the photos. Although the characters are fictional, the facts are state law.

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