...and other reasons for a ride in the country...
Some people think signs like this are signs of progress:
But when you go to the lake, would you rather see this:
That happy blue sign is your welcome to the newest public access area on Lake Madison. After considerable public discussion last year, Lake County has opened its shoreline property to the public for fishing and recreation. The entrance is on 236th Street, not quite a half-mile east of Highway 19.
Where a chain gate hung two weeks ago, the driveway is now open. But don't steal that tree.
Through the shelterbelt, you're greeted by this view:
Long driveway, wide beach, and a nice view of the western lobe of Lake Madison. The county commission also appears to have taken heed of local folks' obsession with parking. There's room for five times as many cars and trucks as there is for fishermen sitting cheek to cheek on the beach.
Your tax dollars at work: there's a nice dock on floats, just waiting for fishermen on the beach. There's no boat ramp here, so docile fisherfolk won't need to move over every few minutes for folks launching and beaching.
On my Friday afternoon visit, there were a couple of ladies reclining on the beach and flattering their swimsuits. Courtesy forbade my snapping their pix, so instead...
...outhouses. Folks around here are almost as obsessed with potty as with parking. The county and A-1 Portable Toilets have us covered, with Men's and Women's. (The bikini ladies are just around the men's station.)
Ah, so clean, so commodious....
Check out the new trees! Just as pretty as Commissioner Bert Verhey painted them. Some of the McMansioneers on Woodland Drive had concerns about allowing the common folk access to the neighboring county land. The county thus planted some really nice spruces all along the eastern fence. Now the neighbors won't be disturbed by the view of those fisherman... or bikini ladies... or the county gravel pit.
Alongside the spruces toward the shore, there's also a really big water pump and hose at water's edge. If the fishermen get too rowdy, I assume the sheriff can come out, fire up the pump, and powerwash miscreants right off the beach. Cool.
That reminds me: the new public access area adjoins the county gravel pit, not to mention the hundred-some acres of the rest of the old poor farm that the county rents out for crops. There goes the county mingling recreation and industry. Didn't the commission consult with David Pitts, who said the two don't mix?
But I gaze eagerly into that gravel pit and see an opportunity. Just think what a great mountain bike park we could build here.
There are already a number of truck tracks around the county gravel pit area. Add on to them. Haul out the remaining easy-to-get gravel for public use, then bring in Rapid City bike trail expert Tony Amert to supervise grading out some fun and swoopy adventure trails.
The coming extension of the Madison bike trail south along Highway 19 makes turning the poor farm into a bike farm a natural next step. But let's not stop there. Let's think really big.
The grounds south of the beach include a big basin that looks an awful lot like an amphitheater. Bring a couple bands and a few hundred picnic blankets, and you have a lakeside music festival! Lake Madison Development Association, discuss.
The new public access area is near the site of Old Madison, the first county seat. The county seat moved when certain city fathers swiped the county safe from the Lake Madison site and hauled it in the dark of night to "New" Madison, the present county seat. (Ah, our fair city, established on a foundation of theft and secrets. Again, discuss.)
Extending the bike trail out to the public access area opens itself to another festival event: we could re-enact the great county safe heist! Bring out a bunch of replica safes, load them on trailers, and challenge cyclists to hitch up and race back to town lugging a few hundred pounds of steel and county papers. First one to the courthouse wins a DQ Blizzard and a rubdown!
And how about some shady picnic space? That shelterbelt along the county road looks pretty healthy. Run one spur of the bike trail through the shade along the north edge of the trees, mow some clearings, place some picnic tables... presto! Another step toward the fabled Bicentennial/Semiquincentennial Park that fisherpeople, bicyclists, and swimsuit-clad picnickers could all enjoy!
Oh, about those swimsuits. Who needs those curves, when just up the road I could find some curves I can really get into:
Fellow mountain-bikionados riding out to the new public access area might enjoy this alternate route back to town. A half mile north from the Highway 19-County Road 236 intersection lies one of those welcome prairie rarities: an honest-to-goodness curvy road! The gravel road snakes west through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuge. Not quite the thrill and excitement you can find on two wheels out in the Black Hills, but still a quiet, scenic country ride away from highway traffic.
Lake County has made a wise investment in creating the new public access area on the southwest shore of Lake Madison. It provides another welcome recreation opportunity for residents and visitors alike. It also opens the door to new recreational endeavors that would draw more people to enjoy our fair square of the prairie.
Bonus video! A very mellow view of my ride along the USFW road. Sorry, no wipe-outs, just gravel and grass, water and wind, birds and a bunny... all in pixellated Impressionism. ;-)
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