The Flambeau Bassmasters fishing tournament near Ladysmith, Wisconsin, had a record turnout. The weather was great, the bass were biting and, perhaps better yet, contestants were able to haul their boats over a new and improved Community Park Road.
Where once boaters and fishers had to drag their prized watercraft over a 2,000-foot road of crushed rock, smooth blacktop now leads to the boat landing on the lake, also known as Dairyland Reservoir. The new road played a role in the summer tournament’s success, said Fred Hennekens, a longtime Flambeau Bassmasters member.
“It used to be all gravel, so when you went down the road in a fiberglass boat, you’d get rock chips. And when you left, dust got all over it. It would take me an hour to clean the damn boat. No one wants that,” said Hennekens.
The road upgrades are related to a major fish habitat project on Lake Flambeau, a collaborative effort between Dairyland Power Cooperative in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the Rusk County Wildlife Restoration Association. The G&T contributed $5,000, which CoBank matched through its Sharing Success program. The township of Flambeau also contributed to the $60,000 project.
“I was tickled when Dairyland approached us,” for the funding, said Dan Murray, chairman of the township of Flambeau. “We’re a little township and no one lived along the road,” which ruled it out for most funding. He said Dairyland’s involvement attracted more funders.
The hope is that the new road will draw more visitors to the boat launches and pavilion at Community Park, said Murray.
“The new road looks really nice,” he said. “People weren’t using the park as much as it could have been. They pay as much as $60,000 for their boats, so I don’t begrudge them.”
Since 2007, the Wisconsin G&T has co-led the fish habitat project as part of its decades-long ownership of Flambeau Hydroelectric Station. The multi-phase project has focused on transforming the 2,000-acre lake and 24 miles of shoreline into a nature area for outdoor enthusiasts.
“Environmental stewardship is a core value at Dairyland and is part of our mission to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve,” said Katie Thomson, corporate communications specialist. “Dairyland has been a part of the Ladysmith area community since the Flambeau Hydro Station began generating water-powered energy in 1951, and we work every day to be a good neighbor.”
The lake’s populations of forage and gamefish species, including bluegill, walleye and smallmouth bass, have improved significantly. Fish thrive in the hundreds of shoreline and deep water structures made of rocks, logs and brush. Some of the underwater structures consist of whole pine trees weighted at the base and sunk vertically.
“Dairyland really started the process of improving Lake Flambeau,” said Andy Albarado, director of the Rusk County economic development office, adding that the G&T’s involvement attracted other partners. “The effort improved the boat landing, habitat and fish habitats. The lake is getting more use and more demand.”
Victoria A. Rocha is a staff writer for NRECA.