The Wisconsin Point Committee began exploring the possibility of allowing camping under certain circumstances on the Point.
The committee directed city staff to develop guidelines that could help establish a policy that would allow camping on a limited basis.
"I think we want to have some policy in place," said Douglas County Board Supervisor Keith Allena, a member on the committee.
City ordinances prohibit pitching or occupying a tent or other temporary structure other than a duck blind, or sleeping in recreational and other motor vehicles on Wisconsin Point from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., except during the smelt run, determined by the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department.
Mayor Jim Paine brought up the issue after receiving a request from a group of musicians - a request denied because of the city's long-time prohibition to camping on Wisconsin Point.
"I think there are probably some legitimate purposes to camp on the Point, so we would need some direction on that," Paine said. "If you firmly believe there are none, we would like that direction too, to say that we will not be granting any exceptions to this policy.
The panel weighed the options of establishing an area where camping would be allowed, or simply allowing limited, permitted camping on the Point.
"The family of Chief Osaugie still gets together from time to time. What if they want to stay the night? I would have a hard time saying no to that," Paine said.
Douglas County Board Supervisor Terry White, an alternate on the committee, said the Osaugie family would want to be on tribal land on Wisconsin Point.
"It was talked about over the years in this committee," Committee Chairman Tom Bridge said. "Nothing ever changed. What was talked about was having an established campground ... to have some control of who was there."
Bridge said he has seen people camping in the woods and beach at Wisconsin Point in the past. A longtime advocate for protecting Wisconsin Point, both as a city councilor for the district and as a member of the planning and implementation committees to preserve the point, Bridge said campers he's seen have typically taken down their tents early in the morning.
"One option is to control it to a specific area and ban it everywhere else," Paine said. "The Point obviously has quite a bit of environmental and historical significance. And I think it's beneficial to that space to keep most of it free of camping."
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle, a committee member, advocated a beneficial purpose tied to the opportunity to camp there.
"I think it should have like a demonstrable activity around historical, cultural, environmental, scientific benefit to the Point," Van Sickle said.
"I don't think we should turn Wisconsin Point into a campground if you want my personal opinion." Paine said. "There could be designated spaces where camping would be permitted for a fee for service-related projects. The Boy Scouts could pitch three tents to clean up the beach."
The mayor said he would like to see a permitting process managed by the Wisconsin Point Committee, which would be able to set conditions for issuing a permit.
Committee member Nick Danz, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, said that could be difficult because the committee meets infrequently.
Allen said one of his concerns about allowing camping on Wisconsin Point is the curfew implemented by the city several years ago, which prohibits vehicles from going beyond the first parking area between 11 p.m. and 4 p.m. - adopted in an attempt to stop illegal dumping - and the facilities that would be available.
The committee directed city staff to develop guidelines for consideration at its next meeting; a date for that meeting has not been set.
The committee did forward a request from Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Linda Cadotte, on behalf of the Wisconsin Conservation Corps., to allow the group of volunteers to camp in the project area between Bear Creek Park and Wisconsin Point Road where they will be constructing a trail between the Osaugie Trail to Wisconsin Point starting next month.
The City Council makes the final determination when it meets Sept. 4.