On the shores on Devil’s Lake, outside of Baraboo, The Friend’s of Devil’s Lake has been working for years to build a new Education and Interpretive Center. Some of the area’s residents, however, say that the spot picked out by the group could be disastrous.
The Defenders of Devil’s Lake is a loose coalition of community members who live near the park who oppose the planned placement of the center. They say the proposed location poses environmental concerns for the lake.
The Department of Natural Resources has final say over where the site goes. But a loose coalition of people – Defenders of Devil’s Lake – says that the Friends of Devil’s Lake is pushing the Department of Natural Resources in the wrong direction.
The planned site for the project sits along the parking lots on the north end of the park. It was selected due to its proximity to the lake as well as structural factors, such as location of bedrock and amount of traffic.
The site was selected by a group called the GWWO, an architecture firm out of Baltimore. Bernadette Greenwood is President of Friends of Devil’s Lake. She says the site was picked carefully and matched the needed criteria.
“The one that they believed was the best site, they look at a bunch of criteria, they looked at whether there was a connection to a resource, they looked at the buildability of the site, is there infrastructure, a whole slew of criteria. And north shore, across the railroad tracks from Rock Elm Shelters is what they deemed to be the best site,” Greenwood says.
But not everyone is on board. Claire Dwyer is a member of the Defenders of Devil’s Lake, which opposes the location. Dwyer says that building anything close to the lake is dangerous, as there are no natural outlets for the lake, so anything that ends up in the lake will stay in the lake.
“Any construction along this lake, which has no natural outlets, is just asking for water problems, who knows what they will dig up with their foundation. It’s just dangerous,” Dwyer says.
Dwyer and the Defenders also say t the Friends have not coordinated with the Ho Chunk tribe with the location of the site, which will sit close to an effigy mound. The lake is a special place for the Ho Chunk tribe, who used to call it Spirit Lake.
“They want to expand lot number 3 on the north shore which is precariously close to some ancient Native American effigy mounds. And they want to expand lot number 3, which means they would be even closer to these mounds, which should be left totally pristine and untouched. Nothing should be anything near them,” Dwyer says.
But the Friends push back. They say say that the Ho Chunk culture is important to the center, and that they have included members of the tribe to public meetings from the very beginning. Greenwood says that, while the center is close to the mounds, it will not disturb them in any way, and would actually be able to provide more protection for them.
“They would definitely not be… if anything, we would probably be able to use funds to enhance signage and enhance opportunities to learn about the mounds to protect them,” Greenwood says.
The Defenders argue there is a better site for the center – one that sits further away from the lake. They say that location would allow easy access to the center while eliminating environmental concerns with building near the lake shore. They say that with that alternative, parking could be expanded in the future, traffic congestion by the lakefront would be reduced, and it could be used to collect solar energy.
A final decision is expected to come in early 2022, when the Department of Natural Resources is slated to finish its master plan for the Central Sand Hills region, reports the Baraboo News Republic. But it could take longer than that – the deadline for the master plan has already been extended once.
Photo courtesy: Dave Hoefler / Unsplash