Work at Minocqua Winter Park Done Without Town’s Prior Authorization
Minocqua officials took Lakeland Ski Touring Foundation representatives to task Tuesday for unauthorized work at the town-owned Winter Park, including grading Squirrel Hill to better shape the snow-tubing run.
Criticism focused primarily on the foundation’s failure to get prior town approval, rather than what modifications were done.
Foundation board president Jo Horton and two other representatives met with the town board in a special session to discuss the lack of communication, as well as plans for the upcoming ski season. The town owns the chalet building and the surrounding 40 acres. The non-profit foundation has managed Winter Park for many years.
“We need to get the communications back together,” said director of public works Mark Pertile. While some changes were minor, such as changing a chalet door, the grading of Squirrel Hill was not, he said. “At first it was going to be a small project, but “ended up being substantially larger than what was anticipated.” But by and large, he added, “there was nothing detrimental to the town.”
Supervisor John Thompson weighed in on the lack of prior permission. “I think this was a big deal. That property belongs to the citizens of the town.” He said Pertile should have been informed prior to work being started.
While the foundation board obtained the required permits from the state Department of Natural Resources and Oneida County, the work done exceeded permit limitations, admitted Horton.
Horton said the board member who authorized the extended work “was called to task on that.” The grading reduced the slope of the hill because it was too fast when icy for tubers, and they also extended the run-out at the bottom of the hill. She promised to keep Pertile informed in the future of any proposed work at Winter Park.
Pertile said the elimination of the executive director position last September led to a lack of communication with not only with the town but also with others on the 10-member board of directors of the foundation.
“In the past the executive director kind of kept everybody going down the right path, with the right contact, to get things done prior to the work being completed,” Pertile said.
Looking at the upcoming season
Pertile said the meeting was also an opportunity for the foundation people to introduce themselves to the town board and to go over upcoming changes to Winter Park operations due to the covid pandemic.
Horton said their “number one concern is to keep the staff safe” during the pandemic. To do that, she said, the foundation would close the chalet to the public this season. They moved the privately run rental outlet to another part of the facility.
They will have both the new and old tubing buildings opened for people to change shoes, as well as a tent on the other end of the parking lot for the same purpose. “Your car will be the lodge,” said Mark Stuber, the newly named chalet coordinator, in quoting other ski facilities’ websites. The chalet’s bathrooms will not be open for the public, but Porta Potties will be available. Nor will food or drinks be served inside the chalet.
Two new windows for ticket sales will be manned, however they are encouraging people to go on their website to order tickets for skiing and tubing.
Supervisor Sue Heil, who has a resort near Winter Park, said she’s had a number of cross-country skiers cancelling their reservations.
Todd Dunsirn, foundation board secretary, replied that their pre-order season passes are “high.” Horton agreed, saying she is looking forward to a good season despite the pandemic.
The facility gets a couple hundred people daily on weekends during the Christmas to New Year’s school break. They come for what is touted as one of Midwest’s better cross-country ski complexes, which includes the snow tubing hill, snowshoe trails and ice skating pond.
The foundation has not determined what races, if any, they will have. “Virtual races” are a possibility, Dunsirn said.
Town chairman Mark Hartzheim said the foundation’s operation of facility is a “win-win” partnership and helps Minocqua as a travel destination.
Earlier, Pertile said the meeting was an opportunity to clear the air and to “keep things rolling in a positive direction.”