Beaver Dam will take a look at buying Skunk Island

January 19, 2019
Skunk Island is seen from a pontoon boat on a cloudy day.

The future of Skunk Island remains as murky as ever, but the current owner would like to sell it to the city.

The Beaver Dam Lake Development Corporation, which owns the small island in Beaver Dam Lake near Edgewater Park, decided on Thursday to give the city of Beaver Dam until April 1 to make a decision on whether to buy it for $1. The corporation is separate from the city, but its board members are appointed by Beaver Dam Mayor Becky Glewen.

The island has featured no trespassing signs for years and was caught up in a dispute over who should be allowed to hunt on the island and concerns about liability if anybody is injured on it.

Bill Foley, who is on the board and also works with the nonprofit Beaver Dam Lake Improvement Association, said the island is a unique asset that the city would be “remiss” to lose out on.

City officials have expressed concern over taking over the island and the additional responsibilities that would come with caring for what would become a new city park. It will be up to the members of the Common Council to decide how to respond to the offer.

“I think just giving it to the city, even though we know they’re strapped right now, is that really fair?” board member Wendy Meier asked.

The city has much stronger immunity against legal actions. The corporation pays about $2,000 a year to insure equipment on the island, and could decide to add $1,200 in coverage for liability issues, but it still wouldn’t be as strong as what the city has. Kevin Burnett, who is on both the board and the Beaver Dam Common Council, also suggested asking the city for more funding.

Taking down the no trespassing signs would open the board up to greater legal risk and board chair John Moser said, if that happened, the board wouldn’t really want to advertise it.

The corporation discussed what the future of the island should be, ranging from leaving it basically untouched to completely developing it with a pier, a kayak launch, picnic facilities and more. The board’s bylaws say that it should work to protect the island, but also encourage its use.

Skunk Island used to be a popular spot for duck hunting, and some imagine it as a good educational space for children to learn about its trees and wildlife or for recreation.

Board member Alexis Luedtke said keeping the island completely closed off as it is now seems to be a violation of the bylaws. Rob Monette said jokingly that he has to avoid Fleet Farm for a week whenever an article appears in the newspaper about Skunk Island, because people will ask him about what’s finally going to happen with it after all these years.

The corporation has also discussed giving the island to the Beaver Dam Conservationists, a group that has expressed interest, but the same issues over liability and limited public access are raised.

The option of buying Skunk Island is expected to appear on city agendas in February.

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