Two Three Lakes School District taxpayers have asked the Three Lakes School Board to not develop a trapshooting range on the district’s new school forest property along Highway A in the town of Sugar Camp.

Leo Krivickas and Rebecca Nitke, who own property in the town of Sugar Camp near the proposed 40-acre school forest, submitted the letter to school board members March 19.

“We, as taxpayers and members of the Three Lakes School District, are excited about the school forest, learning center, environmental studies, silent sports, walking trails, outdoor classrooms, and other mind-healthy, eco-friendly uses for the new school forest property,” the two wrote in a co-signed letter also sent to the Vilas County News-Review and The Three Lakes News.

“Our concern is the discussion by the school forest committee regarding add­ing a trapshooting range to this property. We feel it is improper use for a school property,” the letter continued.

The Three Lakes High School trap team currently travels to a Hiles shooting range, about 15 miles away. The range is established and being used by the team and others in the community. Krivickas noted Northland Pines High School trapshooters travel 30-plus miles to a Boulder Junction range.

“Schools districts do not need to build, maintain, control, gate and protect a shooting range built on school property,” the two wrote. “Additionally, if the trap team stays at the range in Hiles or another community range off school property, students and schools are not at risk of violating gun-free zone policy.”

Maney responds

In an email to board members and staff March 21, Three Lakes School District Administrator Teri Maney said the school forest was on the board agenda for the March 25 meeting, but a trapshooting range at the site was not on the agenda.

“Please know that my priorities are on teaching, learning and the health and safety of our community,” wrote Maney. “We are working through some very difficult times, not only educationally but within our personal lives, state, country and world.”

Maney noted the school forest is a work in progress.

“The school forest project is important, but it is a slowly developing work in progress. Currently, the committee has focused on gathering information for possible uses of the land. The placement of the trap range is included in these considerations,” wrote Maney.

“In addition, we are developing outdoor learning/environmental education ideas and possible trail development. We are awaiting legal guidance on the use of this property,” wrote Maney.

In a follow-up email to the News-Review, Maney said the only school board action taken at the March 25 board meeting was to register the Highway A parcel as another property in the Three Lakes School District’s school forest holdings. 

“We are researching possible uses for the property and beginning to look at policy. It is very early in the process,” wrote Maney.

Outdoor classroom

In their letter, Krivickas and Nitke wrote the new Three Lakes School Forest should be an outdoor classroom, an extension of the school.

“It should be a safe zone. It is school property that should follow federal and state laws and current school board policy regarding guns,” they wrote. “If you are building environmental classrooms in this forest, they are extensions of the school classroom.

“The silent sport, fitness and bike trails that are suggested are also at odds with a shooting range,” they continued. “Additionally, the entire school forest would have to be on lockdown the minute a loaded gun enters the property. You definitely cannot walk any trails during a shooting session. A trap, skeet, clay target shooting range should not be part of any environmental outdoor school classroom.”

Krivickas and Nitke said there also are environmental concerns and lead laws.

“Congress has passed a number of laws related to lead. These laws address lead in paint, dust and soil; lead in the air; lead in water; and disposal of lead wastes. EPA is addressing lead contamination and resulting hazards under these laws in many ways, including by issuing and enforcing regulations,” they wrote. “Ammunition contains lead. Lead is released into the air when the gun is fired. These particles of lead can get into the body when someone breathes them in. Additionally, they can get into the body if someone eats or drinks after shooting (or working) and does not wash their hands first.” 

Krivickas and Nitke said the Three Lakes School Forest property should be natural and pristine. 

“We would be sending the wrong message if, in the school forest, there is a shooting range. Let us send the right message to our children and keep our footprint small,” they wrote. “We would like the school board to vote to discontinue discussions and planning for a shooting range in this school forest or on any school property.”

Multi-year project

The Three Lakes School Board approved the formation of a school forest development team at a meeting in August 2019 to develop a comprehensive plan for the 40-acre parcel of land between Three Lakes and Sugar Camp.

Maney explained that the entire process from planning through site development and completion will be a multi-year project, taken in phases. 

The initial stage, or Phase 1, would begin immediately and entail five steps, the first being the establishment of the general oversight committee and name for the project. Solicitation of committee members will take place over the next couple of weeks, seeking individuals from a wide spectrum of the community and interests. Anyone with interest in being considered for this committee may apply online through the school website, or by contacting the school district administration office.

Step two will be the selection of the committee members from those who apply, and to establish committee team norms, determine a calendar of meeting dates and a preliminary timeline for the project. 

Step three will be the information-gathering portion of the process with the committee exploring how to best seek ideas from the community and individuals on possible uses for the property. They also will discuss potential concerns, consider safety and legal issues, and how to report this information back to the community.

Step four will be a media campaign to compile all of the data collected and share that information with the board of education and community.

The final step of Phase I will be the development of vision and mission statements, outlining the purpose of the project, and how that purpose will be achieved. Along with this will be defining the nonnegotiable items for the Three Lakes School Forest, and establishing short- and long-term goals for the project.

Maney pointed out that many experts from the school forest development field will be utilized, and restated that the entire process will take much time to reach fruition. She hopes patience will prevail as the school forest project becomes reality.