Dear Editor:

I wrote a letter to the editor two weeks ago regarding the plight of Vilas County’s only Rustic Road, Highway K.

Troy Schalinske, Vilas County Highway commissioner, had met with community members in April to explain why the county was being so aggressive with brushing on County K, and subsequently shared his repavement plan to be scheduled for 2024-’25. His plan included expanding the pavement by 6 feet, creating a 10-foot tree-free zone on each side of the road, and cutting trees and branches down well into the right of way to eliminate the tree tunnel/ canopy that has made the road so famous.

Members of Save Our Rustic Road attended the highway department meeting on May 17 in which they conveyed their concerns to the Highway Department Committee. Specifically, Save Our Rustic Road board members were requesting that residents become part of the process in which the road is managed. If you read my last letter, you know that the county was less than welcoming.

The purpose of this letter is much different than my initial letter, as the tide has turned.

Last week, we were invited to join the highway department on May 26 for a meeting in which several county supervisors, forestry personnel from the state and DNR, as well as Mr. Fetterly, the co-chair of Wisconsin’s Rustic Road Committee were in attendance. Now, I am writing this letter to complement the county and highway department for their willingness to work with Save Our Rustic Road members.

Troy Schalinske is truly an honorable manager and is doing his best to do a good job for the county. Likewise, county supervisors in attendance were very amenable to working with the community. In fact, during the meeting, they indicated that, although there would be some trimming necessary, that they did not intend to create a 10-foot tree-free zone or eliminate the tree tunnel/canopy. In addition, they stated that they were negotiable regarding the expansion of the pavement.

Members of Save Our Rustic Road are now working together to create two committees: A Maintenance and Vegetation Management Committee to work with the highway department on an on-going basis, and a Bike Trail Committee that will research bike trail options that go through state land and utilize old railroad grades. Save Our Rustic Road’s members believe that expanding the road will not make it safer, but rather embolden people to drive faster. Removing bicycles from the formula by providing a separate bike trail would ultimately be safer for cars and bicycles alike.

By definition, the State of Wisconsin Rustic Road Articles state that “Road improvements shall be kept as narrow as possible to retain the rustic charm of the road as well as keeping the driver’s speed lower” §1.09 In addition, the guidelines state that “Improvements shall be kept to a minimum to avoid disturbance of vegetation. . .” §1.08.

Board members of Save Our Rustic Road are cautiously optimistic and grateful that the county is willing to work with the community.

Thank you Troy Schalinske, Willy Otterpohl and gang.

Libby Scott

Star Lake