Hunting changes worry Elroy-Sparta Trail board members

Published On: Dec 12 2012 05:32:33 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 12 2012 06:43:26 PM CST
SPARTA, Wis. -

After lots of public pressure, Wisconsin's Natural Resources Board significantly scaled back plans to open up hunting in state parks and on state trails.

The decision was made Tuesday during a heated public meeting in Madison.

Despite the revised plans, several board members of the Elroy-Sparta State Trail tell News 8 they are still concerned about the approved plans.

(They're) "just two activities that do not work well that close together," said Milt Leis, one of the board members.

Leis owns Speedy's Bike Shop near the trailhead in Sparta. He says tens of thousands of people spend time on the trail each year.

"The biggest draw is generally the (old train) tunnels," said Leis.

With so much use, Leis and other board members are concerned about plans to allow hunting and trapping at two campgrounds along the trail.

Click here to see the DNR's latest maps of locations that will be open to hunting and trapping in 2013.

"I don't think there's going to be that many people that are going to be real comfortable out there riding on the trail with their families (when they) can see people hunting," said Leis.

The DNR's original proposal would have opened up hunting and trapping from mid-October until May. After lots of public pressure, however, the Natural Resources Board shortened the plans significantly to a 1 month stretch in fall and a 1 month stretch in spring.

"Those adjustments, I hope, provide more public safety and a good experience for all users," said Dan Schuller, the director of Wisconsin's state parks.

Schuller says there are a lot of people who will benefit from expanded hunting and trapping opportunities.

"State parks are nearby a lot of communities. It's an opportunity to get a close by experience for a lot of those new activities in our parks" said Schuller.

In Sparta, where the state bike trail brings in people from all over the region, some say it's still too risky.

Milt Leis worries about safety and the economic impact.

"You're just too close," said Leis.