By DAVID KRIER
The Boscobel Common Council’s Protection & Welfare Committee met with Grant County representatives last Wednesday to discuss concerns with parking and trash removal at the Wisconsin River boat landing on the city’s far north side. Although no definitive solutions were reached, most in attendance said it was a productive hour-long discussion.
The meeting began with City Attorney John McNamee proposing that the city hand over jurisdiction of the boat landing to the county, a proposal that was later modified to allow for joint jurisdiction between both the city and county.
“The city can authorize the county to exercise any powers they have if we specify what they are,” McNamee said. “We have no binding regulations out there. They might cover littering, I’m not sure.”
McNamee then referred to Section 9.17 of the city code, which covers the boat landing.
“You can’t drink beer out there. I guess we should change that one,” McNamee said. “Driving or parking on the grass, which is something I think you might want to change, because of the use it gets out there. We don’t have anything on parking out there other than that. So whatever regulations the county would like out there, I guess we could delegate the county to enforce them.”
Grant County Board Chairman Bob Keeney and Corporation Counsel Ben Wood suggested dual authority at the boat landing for both the city and county because a county deputy is not frequently in the area. Keeney added that the county is not opposed to cars parking on the grass, due to the high volume at the boat landing on busy summer weekends.
“There are going to be a lot of times they they’re not going to have a car close, and they’re not going to want to send someone specifically up here just to write parking tickets,” said Boscobel police officer Dan Merwin.
However, Police Chief Todd Stenner said he doesn’t feel comfortable writing city parking tickets or towing cars from a county-owned boat landing.
“I would like to see the ordinances handled by the county,” Stenner said. “We would be more than willing to go out there and assist if there are issues.”
“That’s what I think the solution is,” McNamee added. “It’s their boat landing.”
However, Keeney said the county isn’t interested in writing $300 parking tickets at the boat landing, which is the current penalty under county law. “The sheriff isn’t comfortable doing that,” he said.
McNamee said the county could adjust its fine schedule lower, but neither party appeared willing to write tickets for parking on the grass, legal action that could have a detrimental effect on future tourism development.
“We encourage parking on the grass,” Keeney said.
“Last weekend there was a bunch of them on the grass because the boat landing was full, and I don’t have a problem with that,” said Mayor Steve Wetter. “I don’t care who it is—fishermen, canoeists, air boats—that boat landing is for everybody, and sometimes it gets awfully crowded out there as far as parking goes.”
Since the county removed the garbage cans at the boat landing following the busy July 4th weekend, trash removal has become a concern. The county prefers a “pack it in, pack it out” approach, which has worked somewhat, but still has its limitations. Stenner said the city can enforce the state’s littering laws, but it’s difficult unless the violator is caught in the act.
“Is there any chance the county will put a dumpster or trash cans out at the boat landing?” asked Committee chair Barb Bell, pointing out that Richland County has a dumpster at the Port Andrew boat landing north of Blue River.
“The problem is who is going to go out and empty those trash cans; who is going to take care of that,” responded Keeney. “We have two people who take care of 11 boat landings in the county, and their first stop Monday morning is this one. There have been times when they’ve picked up a county truckload of garbage out there.”
Stenner said that on a normal summer weekend he can count on one hand the number of times the garbage cans are overflowing and as long as the county is already doing the maintenance out there, like mowing the grass and taking care of the outhouses, dumping a few garbage cans shouldn’t be a big deal.
“My thing is if you have four garbage cans out there and those are getting overfilled, instead of taking four out maybe you should have added two,” Stenner said.
Wetter said solutions need to be found because traffic at the Boscobel boat landing is most likely only going to increase.
“Down the road I don’t see it being used less; I see it being used more and more and more and more,” Wetter said. “This is the most used boat landing in the county and we have to find a way to handle it.”
Keeney said that takes money, and suggested the city consider taking it over.
“If you would like to take it over we’d be glad to work something out,” he said.
“Would you sell it to us for a dollar?” asked Wetter.
“There you go,” responded Keeney, garnering laughter from the crowd.
“Get a quorum. Do it. It’s not funny,” said Scott Teuber, owner of Wisconsin River Outings in Boscobel, the biggest user of the landing. “Why not?”
Wetter appeared interested in that possibility, as did City Administrator Arlie Harris, who said, “The city gets a lot of advantages out of that boat landing. It’s the Boscobel boat landing when people come through here. It’s not the Grant County boat landing. It behooves us to keep it looking good out there. I like that dollar deal.”
The consensus toward the end of the meeting appeared to be sticking with the status quo through the end of this summer.
“We’re halfway through the summer at this point,” Teuber said. “We need to just ride this out, get a more solid number of what costs would be incurred (in garbage pickup), and how we would split it.”
Teuber suggested more “strategic positioning” of garbage cans, including moving them away from the boat ramp, where people would naturally dump their trash instead of taking it with them. He also suggested an “Adopt a Boat Landing” program for organizations like the Boy Scouts.
In the meantime, city and county leaders vowed to work toward resolving issues at the boat landing, and studying the possibility of city ownership.
“As we grow we have to figure out how to do it,” Wetter said. “We’ve talked about that dollar thing before and maybe down the road that might be the answer.”
“I agree,” said Ald. Milt Cashman. “It should be done; it takes away all those problems.”
“If we have an airport, why don’t we have a boat landing?” added Bell, who said the city already has a garbage hauling contract with Town & Country Sanitation.
City ownership could also open the door for future improvements at the boat landing, according to Harris. “If we owned the land out there we could put in a better boat landing, trailer park, all that stuff,” he said.
For the next six weeks or so of the busy canoeing and fishing season, both the city and county will stick with the status quo, with paddlers and anglers responsible for removing their own trash. McNamee has been directed to draw up a consolidation of jurisdiction between the city and county. He will also modify the city’s parking ordinance forbidding parking on the grass and remove the restriction on beer at the boat landing, although hours of consumption will be restricted to daylight hours only.