You ever wondered what a cranberry bog could be if weren’t used for raising cranberries?

In the mid-2000s, the cranberry bog near Grindstone Lake boat landing, north of Highway K in the Town of Bass Lake in Sawyer County, was being considered as a marina. The idea was to open up the bog to the lake, let the waters come deep enough to float boats and develop the wooded uplands into housing.

However, the marina developer discovered the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources does not take kindly to excavating shoreline and creating a manmade inlet, so the idea died.

Now there is another is another effort to use that same bog and, again, it’s not for cranberry production. This effort is one of wetlands and native plants restoration, educational opportunities and creating a non-motorized recreational trail.

The Grindstone Lake Foundation is in the process of buying the 57-acre bog with over 1,600 feet of shoreline. It’s already raised $486,000 of the $868,000 needed and has another $200,000 matching grant secured on the remaining $400,000, leaving just $200,000 to obtain clear title.

In foundation literature, it explains in the summer of 2018 the bog was placed on sale via an online auction. The property was purchased by a buyer who chose to be remain anonymous but offered the property up to the foundation.

“We were concerned the property might have gone to a developer,” said Cynthia Parker, foundation president, “so we were excited to learn that benefactor won the bid on our behalf.”

The property will go to the foundation as long it secures total funding. So far the foundation has experienced outstanding success, including a $200,000 grant from the DNR and hundreds of generous donations.

The site

On June 30, four foundation board members met with the Sawyer County Record to talk about the history of the bog and future plans. They included Karen Mumford, Donna Carlson, treasurer Michael Warden and Cheryl Contant.

Mumford said research has revealed the land was originally non-forested wetlands and was converted into a cranberry bog in the late 1930s and continued as a productive bog right up to as late as 2017 or 2018.

The mid-2000s marina project not only received the attention of the DNR but also the lake association.

“The leadership of the Grindstone Lake Association was very concerned about it and started working to really reduce the development so it wasn’t as extensive,” she said. “They weren’t completely against the development, but it was way too massive for the lake and this site.”

After the marina project failed, there were other possible housing developments and eventually the bog was purchased for organic cranberry production and later was put up for sale in the 2018 online auction.

Carlson said the $200,000 grant from the DNR is the largest amount the agency ever gives and requires the 57 acres be placed in a conservation easement.

“We envision recreational trails, restoration of some of the habitats, particularly wetlands,” Mumford said, “and then developing an educational focus to the site where school kids can come out and learn about wetlands restoration. And we want to do some demonstration sites for local lake homeowners, so they can see strategies for protecting and restoring shorelines.

The educational component may also include the history of cranberry production and how the site was used for that purpose.

When the foundation has clear title, it will take the bog out of cranberry production permanently.

“Once we have clear title, then we can go ahead and start having some of the conservation education efforts going on, working with others like the Midwest Glacier Association, people that will work with us with grants to do restoration to the wetlands into the bog,” Carlson said. “It’s a significant opportunity for maintaining the clarity of this lake and have the lake continue to be one of the gems of the lake community. The DNR is very enthusiastic about it and has been supporting us on this now with the $200,000, and from their perspective is isn’t chump change, and we’re working with them to make sure that we’re doing it right and have it for a legacy for our grandkids and their grandkids.”

In addition to the DNR, the foundation hopes to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Landmark Conservancy and Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College, to name a few.

Some of the possible plans for the 57 acres were created by University of Wisconsin-Madison landscape architectural student Billy Acheson, who picked the bog for his senior capstone project, spending two semesters, one college year, researching ideas for a former cranberry bog.

Mumford said Acheson’s ideas were for more of park-like facility than the foundation desired, but it raised ideas and helped people envision another future for the bog on that didn’t include cranberry production or a housing development.

“It was a very in-depth technical study that showed us, you know, yes, it’s a bog right now but take out this berm and do this with this and it becomes a wetland,” she said. “And so it gave us essentially, the blueprint for how to transition it from where it is now to something that’s more natural, as well as more appropriate for the community.”

One idea is to create 1.7 miles of trails within the 57 acres. Contant said the trails would give those who jog on busy Highway K a safer place to work out.

Since the bog has been out of production native plants and grasses are appearing again. Board members acknowledge the land can never be fully restored back to its pre-1930 status, but environmental improvement is possible.

“What we haven’t explored scientifically and really, emotionally, spiritually, is the stuff in between restoring and over-developing,” Mumford said. “So what’s in the middle? What’s possible, and I think this kind of site sets up a tremendous amount of learning for what’s possible. We’re trying to protect species that are disappearing. We don’t know if we can do it because of climate change. Is it arrogant? Maybe. But people have a willingness to try. I mean, we’re learning; we’ve got a ton more to learn. And this is a site where you might see a tremendous learning curve occurring.”

Contant added, “The question is when you’re given the opportunity to get a parcel of land like this, do you say, ‘we can never restore it back to where it was so we’re not interested’ or ‘we have an opportunity to keep this from ever being more abused than it already is, potentially turning into something that’s an asset to the community rather than just simply damaged parcel of land by people 80 years ago that we can’t do anything about.’”

Parker noted the bog project has been incorporated into Sawyer County’s recent outdoor recreational plan because of the future trails there, and being part of the plan could lead to additional funding.

Donations, information

There are several ways to give to the foundation to acquire the 57 acres:

• Checks, made out to Grindstone Lake Foundation, and mailed to Grindstone Lake Foundation, P.O. Box 292, Hayward, WI 54843. Include email and phone number on the check.

• Warden can help with turning over stocks and securities as donations. For more information, email mwarden3353@gmail.com.

• Online donations can be made at grindstonelake.org/save-the-bog.

More information on the 501(c)3 non-profit foundation is available by contacting Parker at cparker.grindstonelake@gmail.com.

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