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Crawford County - a National Park?
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The recent mass mailing that promoted turning Crawford County into a national park appeared to raise quite a few questions and concerns among rural residents.

The mailing didn’t reach every resident, but it reached many. The 20-page, full-color booklet was a condensed version of Bryan Stanley’s 2007 book, ‘The Becoming Of The Driftless Rivers National Park.’

That book was the subject of a story in the Independent-Scout and other publications. Stanley made some contacts and a few presentations at the time, but his vision of turning the county into a national park has yet to take hold.

At the time, Crawford County Board Chairperson Ron Leys praised the effort put into the book, but had doubts about the national park idea.

“It’s not very likely,” Leys said at the time about creating a national park here. “Politically, the people of Crawford County would have to want this to happen for it to actually take place. I can’t imagine it happening.”

Bryan Stanley graduated from the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources with majors in Soil Science and Natural Resources, according the bio on the jacket of his book. He has worked with the Soil Conservation Service in South Dakota and the U.S. Forest Service in Northern Michigan.

A thorough reading of his book or even the recent mailing indicates Stanley has researched his subject matter. He ably discusses the many attributes of Crawford County’s unique unglaciated land, natural resources and history that make it qualified to be considered for becoming a national park. He also explains in some detail how national parks are considered and approved.

Stanley has worked hard to elaborate his vision and the book details it. His background in natural resources, as well as his passion for the vision of creating a national park here, is demonstrated throughout the book and the recent mailing.

However, there’s another part to Bryan Stanley’s story acknowledged in the last sentence of his bio on the book’s jacket.

“Bryan Stanley is a resident of the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin,” according to the book jacket.

When the book was reviewed for the Independent-Scout initially, Stanley was interviewed by phone from Mendota Mental Health Institute, where he is and was a confined resident.

Stanley is confined at the mental treatment center as the result of triple murder he committed at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Onalaska in 1985. Stanley admitted killing Father John Rossiter, lay minister Ferdinand Roth and custodian William Hammes. At trial, he was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and sent to Mendota Mental Health for treatment.

Stanley stayed at the facility until 2009, when it was decided he should be released into the community. He returned to LaCrosse, but was sent back to Mendota Mental Health in 2012 after reporting having violent thoughts during an interview with a probation agent supervising his release.

Stanley is currently in Mendota Mental Health and although he spoke with the Independent-Scout briefly two or three times by phone, he was unable to answer any questions about his recent mailing. He indicated he needed to get permission from authorities in the institution. However, there were no further calls. He also was reached by e-mail and proposed e-mailing questions about the proposal and the mailing, but he did not respond.

On Tuesday, the Independent-Scout received a letter by mail asking to include some material in a story.

One of the main questions or concerns some rural residents expressed after getting the mailing was what would happen to their property. They were concerned the government would use eminent domain to force them from their property. Some openly suggested it would be like the situation in rural LaFarge when farmers were forced to leave their land to accommodate a dam on the Kickapoo River that was ultimately never built.

Although Stanley was not available to answer that question last week, he did suggest there were answers in his book. In fact, the book does devote a chapter to addressing rural landowners and their concerns.

It is important to note that the proposal would not affect the incorporated municipalities of the county. That means the City of Prairie du Chien and the villages including Gays Mills, Soldiers Grove and nine others would remain inside the national park in some part servicing the park’s visitors.

In our initial story on the book and his national park proposal, Stanley did address the question in an interview of the situation faced by rural landowners under his proposal.

Stanley insisted that landowners would be generously compensated for their land and current occupants might be offered lifetime leases to remain on that land.

In chapter 10 of his book Stanley acknowledges the love of the land many rural Crawford County residents have, but argues passionately that giving it up for a national park is the best way to preserve that land in the future. He worries at one point that constant development of the land for cabins and rural homes could turn the county into an urban forest.

In his letter received Tuesday, he asked the following quote from Morris Udall be included with this story.

“I’ve been through legislation creating a dozen national parks, and there’s always the same pattern. When you first propose a park, and you visit the area and present the case to the local people, they threaten to hang you. You go back in five years and they think it’s the greatest thing that ever happened. You go back in 20 years and they’ll probably name a mountain after you,” Congressman Morris K. Udall in 1988.

On one of the last pages of his recent mailing, Stanley explains the nuts and bolts of getting a national park proposal approved.

“In order for the park to come into existence, the U.S. Congress must authorize the National Park Service to conduct a Special Resource Study to determine whether the region meets the criteria of national significance, suitability and feasibility,” the mailing states.

"Even in the absence of a Congressional directive for conducting a Special Resource Study, any member of Congress can introduce a draft bill that allows the Park Service to take an initial look at the proposed new park area. If that preliminary work seems promising, the Park Service can go back to Congress and ask that a fully-funded Special Resource Study of the area be made.

"After completion of the study, a report is published and delivered to the members of Congress and made available to the public. After hearings in Congress, a bill must be passed and signed by the President in order to create a park,” the mailing concludes.

Congressman Ron Kind, whose district includes Crawford County, responded briefly to questions about the national park proposal on Tuesday.

“There is a process in place to create a National Park, and it starts at the local level,” Congressman Ron Kind said. “I would encourage anyone who is interested to begin by gathering community support and holding listening sessions because it is only after the community has expressed interest that we would start looking into it. Even with community support, the National Park Service has established specific criteria that the proposal must meet including, national significance, suitability, feasibility, and management alternatives.”

Unfortunately, Bryan Stanley could not be reached for comment on the Driftless Rivers National Park Foundation, which has been established a 501©3 nonprofit organization to raise money for the national park proposal effort. He was also unavailable to answer questions about an online petition to Congress designed to show support for the Driftless Rivers National Park.