(First published in the October 31, 2019 issue of City Pages)
Granite Peak’s ski are expansion will have to wait while the state revisits all sports/recreation in Rib Mountain State park — and local leaders say that’s a good thing.
Wisconsin Natural Resources Board chairman Fred Prehn, of Wausau, says the state park master plan process usually takes two to three years, but will be accelerated to less than a year for Rib Mountain.
A new master plan being developed for Rib Mountain State Park could increase the amount of recreational uses there, officials say.
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board Oct. 23 voted to halt the current amendment process to the mountain, which included Granite Peak’s plans for expanding its ski runs. Instead, the NRB will look at developing a new master plan for the entire park to include all potential users — including extreme sports events organized by the new Wausau-based IronBull organization.
That decision doesn’t halt Granite Peak’s expansion, but means a delay to its plans while the board takes public input for uses such as hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking. And that process could be fast-tracked, in part thanks to prodding from the chairman of the Natural Resources Board, Wausau dentist Fred Prehn.
“All they asked for was to look at a little part of the park,” says Prehn. “We want the whole park looked at, with interests from a variety of people.”
Prehn says the board asked DNR staff to fast track the master plan process. That means public input sessions will be forthcoming where representative of various interest groups can give their input on what they would like to see next for the park. DNR officials will then gather that input and develop a new master plan. The plan will be vetted to the public and tweaked based on the further input, then come before the board for approval, Prehn says. Prehn says the process usually takes two to three years, but will be accelerated to less than a year. That could be possible because of work already started by local groups.
IronBull co-founder Bill Bertram says he spoke at the meeting in Madison where the master plan process was decided. Bertram thanked the board and DNR for allowing mountain biking for IronBull’s event last Saturday, and that many on the board seemed intrigued by that sport on Rib Mountain. Bertram says DNR officials plan to work with Marathon County-Wausau Parks Director Jamie Polley to coordinate efforts. Polley tells City Pages the new master plan could be an exciting opportunity for the area. Other potential uses at Rib Mountain could even include rock climbing, ice climbing and even alpine slides.
“We’re three-quarters of the way there,” Bertram says. “It could be a huge game changer.”