DNR, Avon butt heads over Avon Bottoms Wildlife Area expansion
TOWN OF AVON—A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources proposal to expand the Avon Bottoms Wildlife Area is causing disagreements between the DNR and the town chairman.
The department proposes to buy 205 acres from Avon resident Lillie Lenstrom for $300,000. It would be added to the 2,839-acre reserve that attracts hunters, fishers and trappers from all over the area. The parcel is bordered on three sides by DNR land and is entirely within the Avon Bottoms boundaries.
A grant from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program would fund the purchase.
Lenstrom's parcel is 15 miles southwest of Janesville and within an hour's drive of more than 2 million people.
Avon Bottoms is a “high value destination” for hunters, anglers and trappers, said Doug Haag, deputy director of the DNR Bureau of Facilities and Lands .
“When we get a property like the Lenstrom property, it's an opportunity to expand recreational activities in Avon Bottoms,” Haag said.
Avon Town Chairman Michael Moore opposes the DNR's purchase. Much of the town is owned by the DNR, removing it from tax rolls. Despite the reduced tax revenue, the town still has to pay to maintain the roads through Avon Bottoms, Moore said.
“They've been acquiring land on a regular basis,” he said. “I can't stop it. I don't have the money to maintain the roads for the 2 million people coming to the land.”
Moore also has to pay for the stop signs in Avon Bottoms vandalized by the reserve's visitors who shoot and run over them.
The DNR gives the town money each year, but it's not enough to maintain the eight miles of road in Avon Bottoms, he said.
“Let them maintain and pay for the roads,” Moore said. “Give me help. Give me a non-losing proposition.
“Avon is controlled by the people who don't live in Avon,” he said.
Avon Bottoms began in 1960 to provide duck and pheasant hunting grounds for the public. The reserve stretches from Spring Grove in Green County along the Sugar River through the town of Avon in Rock County to the Illinois border.
Besides providing additional public hunting grounds, buying the land would protect the habitat and the floodplain of the Sugar River, allowing it to flood where it won't cause damage, Haag said.
The land is part of the DNR's vision to provide public recreational grounds to locals, he said.
“It's the core of our mission to support the diverse, recreational uses that occur on these properties,” he said.