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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Guest Column: New Public Access Area on Lake Madison Good for All Residents

Two readers mention it; I'm happy to reprint it. Here's Jim Thompson's letter to the editor on turning the old county poor farm into a public access area on Lake Madison [Madison Daily Leader print edition, 2009.01.02, p. 3]. The best thing Thompson says: he calls on all of us who enjoy using the lakes for something other than tax revenue to attend the Lake County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 9:45 a.m., when the commissioners will again discuss the proposed deal with the GF&P.

Editor, The Daily Leader:

In response to the front-page article in Wednesday's paper concerning the county-owned land on the south side of Lake madison, I would like to ask Linda Hilde, "Just how many houses do you need around the lake?"

There are currently five public access points to Lake Madison, one of which requires a State Park sticker to use, one has almost no usable shoreline and a large part of the area around Bournes Slough is almost inaccessible. So that really only leaves to areas where someone can drive into free of charge and enjoy the lake.

Now, I understand Linda Hilde's point; the land in question could be sold at a good profit and the proceeds used to pave another road. But then they are gone and the county still has to spend money to maintain that road.

Also, if the land is sold into private hands, Mrs. Hilde can maintain her multimillion-dollar neighborhood and not have to put up with the riff-raff that will use the public land: (you and I), the public.

This area is owned by Lake County. It used to be open to public use until Mrs. Hilde pointed out that there were no toilets there and that someone might "pollute" the lake while using this area; so, with no opposition at the time, the county closed it.

Now the county has an agreement with the state Game Fish & Parks Department to develop this area into a nice lakeside use area that all of us in the county (remember we, the residents of Lake County, currently own it but can't use it) can use for fishing, picnicking, walking and just relaxing.

Mrs. Hilde's main concern was that there were no toilets; now she will get her toilets and we will get our property use back and it won't cost the county anything. This is a win-win situation for everyone in Lake County.

Game Fish & Parks will plant trees as a barrier to the houses on both sides so we won't interfere with the rich people, and they won't bother us either. They will landscape and plant beneficial plants and control the weeds. This can become a beautiful lake area, open to everyone, on a lake surrounded by houses.

The bad news is that Mrs. Hilde still does not think the people who own the land should be able to use it. After all the work the commission has done and all the work that Game Fish & Parks has done to come up with this agreement, giving her the toilets she wanted, she thinks it should be sold and more million-dollar homes should be built.

I disagree!

Therefore, this subject is back on the commission agenda for the meeting on Jan. 6, Tuesday, at 9:45 a.m. I encourage all of you who would ever use this area for fishing or other activities to attend this meeting along with your friends, or to contact the county commissioners and voice your opinion. If enough public support is given, this project will get done. Do not let the view of a few people lock everyone out of land that should already be using.

Come to the commission meeting Tuesday, Jan. 6, 9:45 a.m. at the Lake County Courthouse.

Jim Thompson
Madison, Dec. 31

Land we already own but can't use. Good point.

Jim's got it right: we have a good plan that will serve every resident of the county (and our bait-buying, sales-tax-paying visitors). Let's make this happen!


  1. Jim made good points. Maybe he could have avoided the us vs. them rich people thing, but the wealthier people around the lake do have a different perspective. I wish the county would keep more control of it rather than the feds, but I'm also not sure I trust the county in the long run not to roll over for the rich folks, especially given the new commissioners. Self interest has really gotten its way the last couple of years around here.

  2. Cory et al:

    Keep fighting on this. There is nothing to raise the desirability of a community (and therefore swell the tax rolls) like having public parks, bike paths, and other wholesome recreational activities available to all.

    Those projects don't just bring a few wealthy people for the summer, they bring families that settle and stay.


  3. The idea of public access at the County Poor Farm is a terrific idea, but we don't need GFP involved. Maybe we can apply to have the improvement project included in Obama's public works funding plan and put some folks to work while maintaining county control of our valuable property. Valuable to our residents as another recreation option for Lake County and visitors. There is about 800 to 900 feet of frontage on that strip. Maybe we should think larger? Jim Thompson could have used less aggressive language in his letter and still gotten his point across. His jealousy really comes through in his writing.

  4. Lake County might consider developing the area into a family recreation area, complete with softball diamonds, swimming area, boat launch, fishing pier.

    None of those things would cost much money and maybe we could have a community drive to raise money and provide volunteer labor for much of the project.

    What a way to provide more relaxation options for residents.

    Since the county has had the property for over 100 years and has been using the gravel for decades, it owes us nothing. A great remake of the poor farm area!

  5. I've heard Jim's words called "aggressive" and "hurtful" (it must really hurt to be called rich), but he's still right: it's our land, and we should find a way to put it to good use for everybody. He's also right that supporters of a good public project on the old poor farm should be at the commission meeting! Come on, you squeaky wheels! Let's get some grease!

    GF&P might be our best option financially. No fundraising needed: they put in the improvements, maintain it, clean the outhouse, and pay the county (us!) rent to boot. Increased revenue, no increased county expenses -- can't beat that!

  6. Is the public loosing access to the Johnson's Point area? I heard the state was selling it and there is a large for sale sign there with some lots already sold.

  7. Anon 3:40

    You heard wrong. Johnson's Point is owned by GFP and is not for sale. Some building lots north of Johnson's Point and east of Johnson's Point are for sale privately. I think through Madison Realty.

  8. Why don't we (the county) sell the land to Linda Hilde so she can develop it as she sees fit?

    That would end the controversy.

  9. Linda Hilde isn't trying to get the land. She can't get it unless through public auction, sealed bids or trade, and only after it would be declared surplus, which probably won't happen. Maybe focus on the project, not the people, so your comments have credibility.


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