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2020: Year in Review Part Three
Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout
Year in Review 2020

DRIFTLESS –2020 was quite a year – one most will likely never forget, no matter how much they may want to.

SEPTEMBER:Soldiers Grove Librarian Cele Wolf retired on August 31 after 28 years of service to the community. Taking her place will be Sarah DiPadova…

YIR3_Courtney Yonker
BACK-TO-SCHOOL in 2020 was like no other year, in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic. Here, educational assistant Cortney Yonker took an elementary student’s temperature on the first day of school at North Crawford.

Educational assistant Cortney Yonker took an elementary school student’s temperature as a COVID-19 precaution on the first day of school at North Crawford Tuesday morning. In addition to checking temperatures, both students and staff are wearing masks… 

It seems the Crawford County Board may have overlooked quite a few broadband internet options, when it appeared to rush to approve a proposal for wireless (cellphone tower) internet from Bug Tussel. Crawford County Board Chairperson Tom Cornford confirmed last week that there was no attempt to get prices from other providers…

YIR3_Jeff Ostrem
JEFF OSTREM returns from taking Tainter Creek Watershed Council field day attendees on a tour of the new grazing installation on his family’s farm. The 50-acre area converted to managed rotational grazing will hold water and prevent nutrients from running off the more erodible acres on his farm into the creek.

Jeff and Karen Ostrem, and their son Josh, farm 160 acres in the headwaters of Tainter Creek. The Ostrems have recently partnered with the Tainter Creek watershed council and the Wallace Center Grazing Project in an innovative land use. The project on their farm involved conversion of 50 acres of their cropland and continuous grazing pasture up above the creek into a managed rotational grazing system for beef cattle. The funding from the Wallace Center allowed the family to install perimeter and paddock fencing, a robust watering system, and to seed their pastures with cover crops. “It’s been awesome since we got the cattle out on pasture,” Josh Ostrem said enthusiastically. “I used to spend all my time hauling manure, and now I haven’t had to do that all summer.” Ostrem recently talked to a group of 50, who attended the most recent meeting of the Tainter Creek Watershed Council on his family’s farm. Ostrem discussed the process that led to his family’s decision to participate, the process of making the land use change, and the many benefits the family is already enjoying… At the Soldiers Grove Village Board meeting, Gary Koch and Bjorn Unseth from Community Development Alternatives were present to announce receipt of a  $914,000 grant from the Community Development Public Facility Grant program. This grant will allow the village to make needed repairs to the sewer system, and will pave the way for the bigger system upgrades needed to bring their system into compliance with WDNR requirements... A one-and-a-half-hour special meeting of the Seneca School Board served a purpose and allowed more than 50 people their chance to express an opinion on the girls volleyball season being switched from fall to spring. The idea for the meeting started when parents of volleyball players realized that the school board had decided to move the Seneca volleyball season to spring, while the seven other teams in the Ridge & Valley Conference had opted to play in the fall… The Crawford County Land Conservation Committee voted down a proposal to recommend a one-year extension of the CAFO  Moratorium to the Crawford County Board. The vote on the motion to extend the moratorium, proposed by FSA representative Bob Standorf, and seconded by Supervisor Wade Dull, failed 3-2 on a roll call vote. County Board Chairman Tom Cornford, who usually does not attend Land Conservation Committee, was present and cast the vote that avoided a 2-2 tie. In discussion prior to the vote, County Conservationist Dave Troester reported to the committee that almost 40 citizens had participated in a ‘Community CAFO Dialogue,’ the prior week, with no pro-CAFO advocates participating. He told committee members that a request to extend the CAFO Moratorium was a “resounding theme.” …Couleecap has been awarded additional funding to support a highly successful eviction-prevention program for low-income residents experiencing income loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program, or W.R.A.P., is funded by the Wisconsin Department of Administration from dollars within the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act… Raising $100,000 in a community of 500 people may seem like a monumental task. But the Friends of the Gays Mills Swimming Pool did it in 15 months. They helped the village fund critical repairs to the mid-1950s pool. Now, the modest organization is plunging into becoming the Friends of the Village of Gays Mills, with its focus dedicated more broadly to projects that could make some waves around town…

WR Dairy_2019 spill location
THE SPILL LOCATION, where a hose splice can be seen on the hose, and liquid manure can be seen around the hose break area. Photo courtesy of WDNR

 Pictured is a section of hose that failed on the bank of the tributary to Otter Creek at Wild Rose Dairy in the 2019 spill. The section of hose was cut out and the hose was repaired. According to WDNR Conservation Warden Shawna Stringham, the hose that failed was a “healthy hose,” and the cause of failure was described as “being pulled through the rough terrain typical of the Driftless Region.”… WDRT community radio, the only non-commercial, volunteer based and listener sponsored radio station in Southwest Wisconsin, is celebrating their 10thanniversary this year. WDRT serves portions of southwest Wisconsin as well as northeast Iowa and a corner of southeast Minnesota. It is heard on the radio at 91.9 FM, streams live on the internet from the station website and is also available to Vernon Communications cable subscribers channel 17… The North Crawford cross country team competed in their first meet of the season at Kickapoo High School. The Trojan girls’ team finished second overall, Kickapoo-La Farge took first place, and Wauzeka-Steuben placed third. The boys’ team ran with only four runners, leaving them out of team competition…

YIR3_Watershed Planning Meetings
VERNON COUNTY Con-servationist Ben Wojahn (center) talks with Tim Hundt from Congressman Kind’s office (left) and Wisconsin 96th Assembly Representative Loren Oldenburg (right) before the meeting began.

Last week, two meetings apiece were held in the West Fork Kickapoo and Coon Creek watersheds for the purpose of obtaining public input about ‘factors to consider’ when engaging in planning for what to do about flood control dams that breached in the August of 2018. Over 100 citizens and agency professionals participated in the meetings. Both of these watersheds contain flood control dams that failed in the catastrophic rain event of August 27-28, 2018… Governor Tony Evers declared a new public health emergency in Wisconsin due to recent surge in cases among young people and issued a new face coverings order effective immediately. Both orders are effective immediately and will expire after sixty days or with a subsequent superseding order. The governor previously declared a public health emergency under Executive Order #82, which remains in effect… Royal Bank has entered into an agreement to acquire two branch locations of Associated Bank in Richland Center and Prairie du Chien pending regulatory approval and customary closing conditions… Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School thought ‘outside the box’ to ensure that students could get back to where they learn best this fall: in school. The outdoor classrooms were created by teachers, parents, students, grandparents, and alumni over the course of a few campus work days… The North Crawford Trojan volleyball team hosted the Ithaca Bulldogs last Thursday in their second home game of the season. Fans weren’t permitted to watch the game in-person, but all Trojan volleyball games will be streamed live on Facebook.

YIR3_Myrtle Lake
ANDREAS TRANSO, left, was one of many performers to entertain the crowd at the Myrtle Lake fundraiser, held by the Swamp Project People, in Soldiers Grove. The event was a fundraiser for the Myrtle Lake restoration project and was massively successful.

OCTOBER:The upcoming Myrtle Lake Fall Fundraiser hosted by the Swamp Project People looks to be the event of the season. Festivities will take place in the Soldiers Grove Village Park, in the old downtown area of the village, and will feature food, beer, auctions and raffles, arts and crafts vendors, a horseshoe tournament, a horse show, kids activities and all-day live music… Vernon Memorial Healthcare has once again received a Five-Star Patient Experience rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services…

YIR#_apple pie
FRIENDS OF GAYS MILLS sold out of apple pies for the first of their 2020 ‘Apple Pie Fundraisers.’ Gays Mills Village President Harry Heisz helped to peel apples for the apple pies.

 Friends of Gays Mills announced early last Friday afternoon that they were sold out of apple pies for their Apple Pie Fundraiser… Health insurance coverage for more than two million Wisconsinites hangs in the balance, while the US Supreme Court deliberates whether to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA) following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the most fervent supporters of the law on the Supreme Court… The last section in the seven-page report on the ‘Crawford Community CAFO Dialogue’ is a collection of comments from the dialogue expressing concerns about the approach being taken by county board supervisors, and some Land Conservation Committee members, to the CAFO Moratorium, the work of the CAFO Study Group, and the many delays in that work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the delay of the Driftless Area Water Study of drinking water quality in Crawford, Vernon and Richland counties. The introduction follows: There were many comments on the study committee and the county board members. The sentiment expressed was that the study committee and the county board are not doing what they should to study this issue and make a good decision……At the North Crawford School Board meeting Ed Heisz moved, and Jill Stefonek seconded a motion to allow each athlete to have two spectators for indoor events, and four spectators for outdoor events. The motion carried… A passing motorist saw a vehicle over an embankment and notified the Vernon County Sheriff’s office. Caden Roth, 17, Viroqua, was eastbound on Highway 56 when he lost control of his vehicle.  Roth’s vehicle traveled over the embankment and struck a tree. JJ Hertel, 17, and Milton Gill, 15, both of Westby were passengers in the vehicle. Officials believe the crash occurred after midnight.   The occupants were disoriented and remained in and around the vehicle for several hours before being found.  They were taken to VMH and treated for cold exposure. All three were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash…Removal of the former Gays Mills High School building with grant funding moved a step further, when the village approved the low bid of Guy Nelson from Soldiers Grove… Crawford County Public Health reports 67 COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days, this is more than double the cases reported in the prior two-week period and is an 18 percent positivity rate. “Even more troubling, our hospitalization rate is at 12 percent; and some of our hospitals that serve our residents are reporting difficulty getting supplies they need and staff shortages.,” says Cindy Riniker… As wildfires continue to damage communities across the West Coast, Organic Valley sent three semi-trucks filled with products to help support those affected. This is about 106,207 pounds of food donated, the grocery equivalent to 88,505 meals… The Crawford County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to rescind a decision they made on August 18, which approved Bug Tussel building 16 cell towers in the county. Their rescinded motion from August 18 had also indicated that the company could ask the county to invest $250,000 in the project that would provide broadband internet… Pat Erdenberger emptied the corn from a combine into the truck at 1 p.m. in the midst of an unexpected snowstorm in the Prairie du Chien area on Monday, Oct. 19. He had intended to finish his corn harvest for the season, but it was getting too sticky. So, he figured on finishing on Tuesday instead… William G. Pedretti Jr., 59, rural Genoa, fell about 30 feet off a rock ledge while going for a walk. Pedretti was given medical treatment at the scene of the accident by Genoa/Harmony First Responders, and was later transported by UTV to a landing zone by the Genoa/Harmony Fire Department.  He was stabilized by Tri-State Ambulance Service, and flown to the hospital by Gundersen Air… The first death of a Crawford County resident who tested positive for COVID-19 was an individual between the age of 70 and 80, who had been courageously fighting this illness over the past few weeks, but sadly lost the battle… A $1.4 million federal grant has been given to the City of Prairie du Chien. The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant will allow the city  to make stormwater infrastructure improvements at the North Gateway Business Park, which is located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone. The grant will be matched by 20 percent in the amount of $357,269 in local funds and is expected to create more than 50 jobs, retain 241 jobs, and generate $3.1 million in private investment.

YIR3_Helen Carstens
NORTH CRAWFORD senior Helen Carstens made school history by being the first female cross country athlete to compete at state all four years of high school. Photo by Nate Beiler

NOVEMBER:North Crawford senior Helen Carstens made school history by being the first female cross country athlete to compete at state all four years of high school… ‘A Veteran Remembers’ is a segmented story about Eugene Schmid, an army veteran who served in the Korean War. ‘A Veteran Remembers’ can be found on The story will appear in four weekly segments. Schmid is  a brother to Gays Mills resident Virginia Murphy… Claire O’Connell, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Wastewater Specialist based in Dodgeville, has confirmed that the subject of an investigation is “a discharge of manure from East Town Dairy.” There was a large fish kill in Brush Creek, in close proximity to the dairy’s location, in 2019. In that incident, according to WDNR, the cause remains unknown…

YIR3_Quamme Witch
NOTABLE FERRYVILLE promoter, Sherry Quamme, dressed up like a witch for the final 2020 Ferryville Farmers Market on Halloween. Quamme was selling glow-in-the-dark potholders for the “bewitched.”

Ferryville Farmers Market concluded its most successful season on record Saturday, October 31, at Sugar Creek Park.  Vendors were dressed in Halloween costumes and had trick-or-treat stations to delight children who joined in the fun to celebrate Halloween and the final market for 2020… It was a wonderful day of music with friends, fun, chili and sunshine at The Old Oak Inn last weekend, culminating a summer music series that most certainly entertained folks in a safe environment during the pandemic. The amazing Sapsuckers, Nikki Grossman and Joe Hart, entertained the crowd and everyone seemed to enjoy what could be one of the last glorious weekends of the year… Sometimes things just work out. Local farmers are about done with a very good harvest this year. The season was off to its best start in years with an early planting under what could only be described as ideal conditions. The growing season featured timely rains and generally good conditions. Lots of corn was shoulder high by the Fourth of July… Led by an enthusiastic group of school staff, an Outdoor Adventure Club is forming at North Crawford. Interested students in grades six through 12 are welcome to join. The club will offer outdoor education and Sunday excursions to Driftless Region outdoor adventure locations… Members of the Fall 2020 North Crawford/Seneca Trap Shooting Team include Seneca’s Brandon Nickels and Kade Simpson; and North Crawford’s Thomas McCormick, Chase Baumeister and Kaeden Chellevold… Voters in 11 counties, in the November 3 election, showed support for a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Crawford County voted 70 percent in favor of a resolution supporting nonpartisan redistricting (5,544), and 30 percent against (2,380)… Midwest Environmental Advocates submitted a formal request to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on behalf of more than 200 Crawford County residents who are asking the agency to prepare an environmental impact statement before issuing permits for the construction of a massive confined animal feeding operation… Thanks to some generous community members, the Friends of Gays Mills was able to provide the Gays Mills Food Pantry with 30 frozen apple pies from our fundraiser. Not only will these pies support those in need in our community, the sale of these pies will also fund projects around the Gays Mills, including the upcoming Mill House Christmas Lights - Gays Mills.

DECEMBER:A concisely written nine-page report on rural broadband was prepared for the Wisconsin Counties Association. It definitely shed some light on the subject of rural broadband. The report indicated that fixed wireless internet, as proposed by Bug Tussel, was at best a temporary solution. Its shortcomings were listed as being not the most reliable or ‘future-proof’ internet connection technology because it suffers from latency (lag) constraints, limited speed options, and weather effects… The Crawford County Public Health Department announced that following a mass testing event, 300 inmates and 65 staff at the Prairie du Chien Correctional Institute had tested positive for COVID-19… A fire in downtown Tomah destroyed at least two buildings and severely damaged a third. The fire destroyed Dimensions Bar and the Artisan Market buildings. There are also at least two apartments above Dimensions bar that were ruined in the blaze…

NORTH CRAWFORD’S Outdoor Adventure Club was off to an adventurous start on Sunday, Nov. 29, with a hike in Wyalusing State Park. Inaugural ad-venturers included, back from left, Rivyn DiPadova, Lena Schmidt, Evelyn Tripalin and Jezelyn Lorraine; middle from left, Brandie Myhre, Liz Bransky, Maya Cade, Dalton Ewing and Mariah Stolpa; and front from left, Kiana Fisher, Sarah Bransky, and Emma Schmidt.

Sunday, November 29 was a beautiful windy day for hiking in the woods, so the new North Crawford Outdoor Adventure Club went to Wyalusing State Park to explore its trails. A dozen North Crawford middle school and high school students, along with two North Crawford staff members, covered over four miles during the afternoon. Highlights of the trip included rock outcroppings, a waterfall, caves, and spectacular views overlooking the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers… Researchers at Mayo Clinic measured how effectively masks blocked the number of aerosol particles from a masked source, simulating an individual with a COVID-19 infection, and they simulated the risk of an individual contracting COVID-19, when they were masked. “We found the most important measure for reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is to wear a mask,” says Matthew Callstrom, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the department of radiology at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. “We found that both disposable paper medical masks and two-layer cloth masks were effective in reducing droplet transmission and we did not find a difference between mask types in terms of how well they blocked aerosol particles.” “The most common mechanism for COVID-19 transmission is through respiratory droplets which are larger than aerosols and are more easily blocked with masks,” says Dr. Callstrom… Crawford Stewardship Project has adjusted their annual celebration and fundraiser, ‘Love the Land,’ to a virtual format in 2020… The Lady Trojan Varsity Volleyball team finished their season having had advanced into the playoffs… With great sadness, Vernon County Sheriff John Spears reports the untimely passing of K-9 Officer Myk…

NORTH CRAWFORD Superintendent Brandon Munson, wife Nora, daughter Audrey, and dog Sadie, were out for a pleasant family stroll, participating in the Ugly Sweater 2K/5K Run Walk. The event was put on by the North Crawford National Honor Society as a fundraiser for the school’s weekend food backpack program.

North Crawford Superintendent Brandon Munson, wife Nora, daughter Audrey, and dog Sadie were out for a pleasant family stroll, participating in the Friends of Gays Mills Millhouse Lights first annual Ugly Sweater 5K walk. When the Mill House Lights display was lit up, you could hear the cries of delight all around… At their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, the Crawford County Board of Supervisors voted 9-6 to table a vote on extension of the CAFO Moratorium. The moratorium was enacted by the board in December of 2019, and contained a provision allowing it to be extended for up to one year. As a result of the board’s decision to table, the moratorium will expire on December 31, 2020. The decision to table enjoyed only a small amount of discussion prior to the vote. No public input was allowed by the 56 citizens watching the proceedings via Zoom, though many were seen to be holding up signs saying, “Extend the Moratorium.”… Vernon County Land Conservation Committee member Rod Ofte moved, and Kelli Mitchell seconded, a motion to form a committee to collaborate with Monroe County on revisions and updates to both counties’ manure storage ordinances. The motion passed unanimously…

JANET GEISLER, the Crawford County Clerk, retired at the end of 2020. Geisler was recognized by the Crawford County Board of Supervisors for her 41 years of service at their December meeting. She is shown with 41 long-stemmed roses and a cake that the board gave her to mark the occasion.

Crawford County Clerk, Janet Geisler, will retire at the end of the year after 41 years of public service in the county… It took almost eight years, but the North Crawford Trojans beat the Seneca Indians 40-36 on the road Tuesday, Dec. 15… The Seneca boys basketball team got back on track with a 48-24 win over the visiting Ithaca Bulldogs on Friday, Dec. 18… Gays Mills Fire Chief Earl Winsor, awards the ‘Firefighter of the Year’ award for 2020 to Ethan Eitsert… The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is converting Prairie du Chien Correctional Institution from a medium-security to minimum-security institution… On the Winter Solstice, December 21, four organizations issued a joint announcement about a partnership to protect clean water and thriving farms. Those organizations are Clean Wisconsin, the Dairy Business Association, the Nature Conservancy, and Wisconsin Land+Water… The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department received a report of a burglary at the Main Street Bar in the Village of Eastman. Entry was gained into the establishment and an undisclosed amount of cash was stolen… The North Crawford Adventure Club had a tough, but rewarding, day on Sunday Dec. 13. They hiked 4.2 miles up and down the bluffs of Perrot State Park. At the top, they stopped to enjoy peanut butter and lemon curd sandwiches, take photos, and enjoy being together.