Is erosion still a problem at Kewaunee’s Riverview ATV Park? County, resident disagree
KEWAUNEE – A man whose farm property borders a local ATV park says Kewaunee County isn't doing enough to prevent soil from the park from eroding into the Kewaunee River.
However, the county has made significant changes within the past two years aimed at controlling erosion and said it had agencies at the local, state and federal levels investigate the situation and report that other changes aren't necessary.
Joe Yunk owns 51 acres of rental farmland just east of Riverview ATV Park in rural Kewaunee, which opened in 1996 and has become a major attraction for the county. It's a county park operated and maintained with county assistance by the Bay Lake ATV Club, which worked with the county and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for about a year on trail planning and design before the opening.
With the county having a topography with shallow bedrock — and a heavily farm-based economy and the tons of animal manure that comes with it — water quality has been an issue for years because rain water and snow melt runs off to county waterways and Lake Michigan instead of absorbing deep into the ground. Those problems were magnified over the past three of years by heavy precipitation, including a record 41.09 inches in Kewaunee in 2019, according to the National Weather Service.
Yunk claims he's seen increased erosion problems in the park that have washed dirty water not just onto his property but also into a wooded ravine in the park. Once in the ravine, the water and the dirt it carries stream down to a culvert that leads to the Kewaunee River.
"It was more noticeable in 2019, but if you get a good downpour, you'll notice it," Yunk said. "You're just losing more soil every time (it rains). That's why the river is brown all the time … It didn't happen overnight, but it got to the point where it's a problem."
Yunk has complained about the erosion to County Board members and other officials and contends that the county hasn't done enough about it.
But county officials said they've taken a number of steps in the past year that have met with the approval of experts. Yunk said the county asked him to provide an opinion from an expert such as a hydrologist or geologist (as the county has done) instead of relying on his opinion, but he said he can't afford it.
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County Administrator Scott Feldt said the county had geologists and hydrologists from the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visit the site, and county Land and Water Conservation Department director Davina Bonness also has looked into the situation. Feldt said all of them indicated the park isn't creating problems with erosion or water quality that wouldn't exist regardless.
"The DNR, county Land and Water (Conservation Department), U.S. Fish and Wildlife all took a look at it," Feldt said. "They did not indicate there was anything we needed to do."
Feldt also noted that the park is surrounded by farms whose tile lines divert their runoff water to the nearest lower point, which happens to be the ravine in the park. Thus, water running into it isn't necessarily coming just from the park, he said.
"(The farms) direct all their water toward the ATV park, toward the ravine," he said. "That's what's troubling us, (Yunk) is accusing the county of being the sole cause of any kind of erosion there. You're talking about a ravine, talking about farm fields that take water toward where the ATV park is."
As for the erosion issue at the park, Dave Myers, director of the county Promotions and Recreation Department, noted the county started a project in fall 2018 to help prevent erosion in the park and address water quality as well as improve the environmental habitat.
The project, completed last November, created three wetland basins west of the ravine to catch potential runoff water and planted seeds for a nine-acre native pollinator buffer to slow erosion and surface runoff as well as benefit wildlife and pollinator species. Also, rock was placed along the ravine corridor to stabilize the banks.
"Trail maintenance is always ongoing," Myers said. "The club has been very amenable to doing the things we're asking."
Also, trails in the lower part of the part, including and east of the ravine, were closed this year to allow the ATV club to continue remediation work, which included creating a new trail to allow the older ones to grow over and recover. Myers said the county hoped to reopen that section once the work was finished, but the club announced July 26 on its Facebook page, facebook.com/kewauneeatvpark, that it will keep the section closed until next spring because some riders are bypassing orange snow fencing and other barriers, riding off-trail and undoing some of the work.
Yunk said the county needs to do more, but Feldt said the county has done more than required and everything it can to this point.
"We tried to address some of the issues to be good neighbors, but it wasn't enough (for Yunk)," Feldt said. "(He) believes the park should be operated one way; the county and (the ATV club) believe it should be operated another way. I can understand his opinion, but … we have done some things and done them voluntarily."
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected].
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Is erosion still a problem at Kewaunee's Riverview ATV Park? County, resident disagree