Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Okauchee Lake Public Access Expansion-Take a minute and send an email.

From the Okauchee Lake Fishing Club, via Becky at Dick Smith's:
Proposed Public Access Site Expansion


Okauchee Lake is a 1,187-acre lake located in northern Waukesha County. The lake’s water quality and excellent fishery make it a popular destination for boaters and anglers throughout the year. The Department of Natural Resources’ existing boat launch on Road T is one of the busiest facilities in southeast Wisconsin, and is frequently full to capacity throughout the boating season, particularly on weekends and holidays. Due to the high demand for access to the lake, the Southeast Region Access Team has designated Okauchee Lake a priority body of water for public access.

The Department's existing public access facility on Okauchee Lake provides 17 vehicle-trailer parking stalls and does not meet the minimum public access requirements for the lake, as explained below. A separate private provider agreement with the Golden Mast Inn provides an additional 12 vehicle-trailer parking stalls at a private boat launch, reaching the minimum of 29 stalls for the lake. This agreement is not a long-term solution to ensure the minimum access requirements are met for Okauchee Lake.

The Department presently holds an option to purchase lakefront property for the purpose of expanding our existing public access site on Okauchee Lake. The property is adjacent, and just south of, the Department’s boat launch on Road T in the Town of Oconomowoc. The property is approximately 0.7 acres and contains 90 feet of frontage on the southwest shore of the lake. The purchase and development of this site provides a unique opportunity to consolidate parking for vehicles with trailers in one location and ensure that the minimum access standards for Okauchee Lake are met and available to the public in perpetuity.

Preliminary development plans include the removal of an existing house and garage, expansion of the parking area, and installation of an accessible fishing pier, landscaping, and fencing. The site would continue to utilize the existing launch ramp, restroom facilities, and lighting.

The Natural Resources Board and the Governor must approve Department property acquisitions. The proposal to acquire property on Okauchee Lake will be on the agenda of the June 25 Natural Resources Board meeting which will be held in Waupaca. Further details on the Natural Resources Board can be found on the Department’s web site at http://dnr.wi.gov/.


In the early 1990s, the Department revised its boating access code (NR 1.91, Wis. Adm. Code). During the rule-making process, the Department solicited comments from local and state lake organizations, conservation organizations, boating safety experts, sport fishing clubs, state legislators, and the general public. A final version of the code was approved by the state legislature and included many of the changes and suggestions that were recommended by various groups and individuals.

Two key points should be made about the boating access code in relation to the proposed expansion of the public access site on Okauchee Lake.

1) The access code sets the minimum and maximum standards for the type and amount of access that can be developed on a lake. These standards are based on the size of the lake.

For Okauchee Lake, this means a minimum of 29 parking spaces and a maximum of 40 parking spaces for vehicle-trailer units can be provided for Okauchee Lake. Additional parking to meet requirements under Americans with Disabilities Act must also be provided. One disabled accessible parking space must be provided for every 25 regular parking spaces.

The 17 existing vehicle-trailer stalls will remain, though they may be reconfigured to accommodate the expansion. A site design will be prepared that includes parking for at least 12 and up to 23 additional vehicle-trailer units, one additional vehicle-trailer parking space for persons with disabilities, and additional car-only spaces for the fishing pier. Expansion of the parking area is not expected to take place until the existing private provider agreement expires, and will not impact the availability of the private launch.

2) The access code states that natural resource enhancement services cannot be provided for lakes unless minimum access standards are met.

The Department is currently able to provide natural resource enhancement services for Okauchee Lake because the minimum access requirements are being met through the private provider agreement. Natural resource enhancement services are defined as funding or activities that increase the recreational or environmental values of a waterway, and include such items as fish stocking, fish population management, habitat development, financial assistance for aquatic plant harvesting or lake restoration grants. Meeting the minimum access requirements allows the Towns of Oconomowoc and Merton as well as the Okauchee Lake Management District to be eligible for grant programs and allows the Department to conduct fisheries management activities. The purchase and development of this site ensures that natural resources enhancement services will be available for Okauchee Lake in perpetuity.


When the Department of Natural Resources acquires land for public use, the Department makes payments for property taxes at the same level as any other property owner. Land purchased by the Department is removed from the tax roll, but to compensate for the tax base loss, each taxing jurisdiction receives an aid payment equivalent to property taxes.


Pending final approval of this real estate transaction, the Department will begin the process to develop the site. The Department must first determine how this development will fit in with the Department’s overall development plan for new construction projects. Once this is done and funding is secured, the Department will be in contact with local and county authorities to address final design and permitting issues. The tentative date for development is 2009-2010.

Please send Jim Richie (Jim.Ritchie@Wisconsin.gov) an email in support of adding an additional 12 parking stalls. The DNR meeting where the expansion will be discussed is set for tommorrow, Wednesday June 25,2008.

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