Tags: Lyons Springfield
March 04, 2014 | 03:27 PMELKHORN — It’s official. The county now owns 196 acres of land in the town of Lyons, which will eventually become a public park.
The county closed on the property, which is located at the intersection of Sheridan Springs and Short roads, on Monday.
“I just think it is wonderful,” County Board Supervisor Nancy Russell said.
“It is really the realization of a dream.”
For more than a year the county has been developing plans to purchase the land at a cost of $1.91 million.
“I think everyone who lives in Walworth County is going to look at this as one of the best acquisitions we ever made,” Russell said.
In order to purchase the park, the county secured a nearly $1 million grant from the DNR’s stewardship program.
“It has been a long, long time since we started talking about this, and I’m just really, really happy that this is now going to be a reality,” Russell said.
Kevin Brunner, the director of central services, said he hopes to have a opening ceremony by the beginning of summer.
He said before the park opens to the public some work needs to be done.
Brunner said the improvements for 2014 include building a parking lot, a boat launch and a restroom. He also hopes to install signage marking the trails. The previous property owner, Duane Clark, developed trails throughout the property.
Brunner also said he hopes to soon remove some invasive species — buckthorn and honeysuckle.
“We are going to plant wildflowers and prairie seed in that area,” Brunner said. “We are going to be doing a little bit of a management this spring, but.. we hope to open the park by early summer.”
The exact date of the park’s opening is going to depend on the weather.
He said the frozen ground will have to thaw before some projects can start.
“With this winter we have had we just don’t know when we will be getting to do some of the work over there,” he said.
Clark hasn’t lived on the property for some time, Brunner said.
However, some of his personal belongings are still there.
He signed a short-term monthly lease with the county to continue storing some property there until he can move it.
Only portions of the property are visible from Sheridan Springs Road. The rolling farmland, an old cedar barn and silo augment the country scenery.
The land is about 70 percent farmland, and the rest is woodlands. It includes nearly 9,200 feet of frontage on the White River. The property also features a meandering river, a spring-fed quarry and established trails. To receive the DNR grant, the county agreed to allow hunting, trapping, hiking, cross-country skiing and fishing.
After receiving the grant, supervisors expressed concerns that year-round, 24/7 hunting would disturb park neighbors and place park users in harm’s way.
However, some of those concerns were alleviated when the DNR said the county can create park hours, which were set at an hour prior to sunrise and one hour after sunset. Hunters and trappers also will be required to obtain permits from the county.