Landowners in the area of Big Portage Lake in Land O’ Lakes, who requested an area of the Vilas County Forest be designated for silent sports use only, were rejected by the county’s Forestry, Land and Recreation Committee last week.

Landowner spokeswoman Suzanne McCartin told the committee the property owners were seeking county forest lands across from an area known as Big Portage Lake Estates to be designated for silent use.

She asked the committee what steps needed to be taken for such a designation.

McCartin said the request   was not intended to include existing snowmobile trails in the region.

Reaction from the committee members was immediate.

“You’re talking about where the off-highway single-track cycle track is,” noted member Art Kunde.

“County land, in my view, is for everybody and I don’t like taking public property and closing it off to the public,” said committee member Holly Tomlanovich. 

“If designated silent, we would have to block the existing forest roads used for hunting and fishing access to Portage Springs,” said Committee Chairman Steve Doyen.

County supervisors questioned if they even had the authority to limit outdoor recreation activity on the county forest to only silent sports.

“We have a lot of deer hunting activity in that area,” said Assistant Forest Administrator Jeremiah Oftedahl.

McCartin said she didn’t realize deer hunting might be prevented, admitting her husband hunts deer and she “didn’t want to take away hunting rights.”

Vilas County Corporation Counsel Jack Albert said  there were no other counties with county forest lands designated just for silent sports.

Forest Administrator Al Murray supported that view.

Committee member Jay Verhulst had a suggestion for McCartin.

“Show us what the problem is and give us a presentation and a plan,” said Ver­-

hulst, adding it was an easy decision for the committee to reject the request. He made a motion to do so, which was adopted.

About the forest

The Vilas County Forest covers nearly 41,000 acres and sprawls across seven towns. Visitors can access the county forest via a 48-mile network of county forest roads. There are three swimming beaches in the county forest and picnicking facilities that are equipped with tables, grills and toilets. 

The forest has nearly 80 miles of trails open to hunting, hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing, in  addition to trails and routes for snowmobiling and ATVing/UTVing.

The county also has placed fishing piers on eight lakes within the forest and maintains three campgrounds — the Tamarack Springs Campground, the River Road Equestrian Campground and the Torch Lake Campground and RV Park.

Other business

In other business, the committee supported closing off a west access road on the Oldenburg Sports Park off of Highway G at the request of the soccer club. It had been open for a private land­owner’s access, but the property changed hands and there is another access available

The committee also supported a 50% grant application from the Resource, Conservation and Development Council to erect up to eight information kiosks on the county forest. The exact locations will be determined later.

The panel was informed that loggers involved in salvage-harvesting timber in storm-ridden areas south of here may be seeking contract extensions for harvesting timber in Vilas County. Murray predicted lower bid prices due to the glut of salvage wood — up to 20,000 acres of forest — going to market.

The committee approved the erection of a donation tube for the Tamaracks Off-Highway Motorcycle Trails, provided it is clearly marked for trail grooming.

The committee will allow a segment of the documentary series “America’s Forests” to be filmed in Vilas County on two timber sales.

The panel was told timber sale revenue for August was $39,716, bringing the year’s total to $279,000.

The committee heard a report from county Recreation Administrator Dale Mayo that the boardwalk over a wetland in Boulder Junction was completed at a cost of $215,575 and is 120 feet long by 12 feet wide. He also said a new bridge over the Wisconsin River off Rummels Road was completed at a cost of $328,660 and is 180 feet long by 12 feet wide. Both bridges will be used by snowmobiles and were funded through snowmobile registration fees.