MARINETTE — A plan to create a recreation corridor between the cities of Marinette and Peshtigo cleared a major hurdle last week.

The Administrative Committee of the Marinette County Board voted 5-1 on Thursday to recommend the board, which is next scheduled to meet March 31, approve the transfer of $80,000 from the contingency fund for the purchase of approximately 123 acres of land in the Town of Peshtigo from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WDOT).

“This is the land that is located in the Town of Peshtigo immediately adjacent to the wayside between Marinette and Peshtigo,” explained County Administrator John Lefebvre. “The Infrastructure Committee recommended to the county board that we purchase that land, obviously on the condition that the Administrative Committee approved funding to purchase the land.”

Lefebvre said that Forestry Administrator Pete Villas has indicated that the county could be eligible for a grant that would cover half the cost to purchase the land from a fund that “has 10s of millions of dollars” in it.

Supervisor Don Pazynski, the only member of the committee who voted against allocating funds to buy the land, asked Lefebvre what the proposed usage for the property is.

“I indicated before that I’m trying to create a corridor in some fashion between outside of Marinette and outside of Peshtigo,” said Lefebvre, who noted the county already owns lands that would connect the proposed corridor to the two biggest cities in the county.

He  said the county would still have to obtain “some type of land or easement” to complete the corridor into Marinette that he said could be used for bicycling and walking and other types of recreational activities even before more land was obtained.

“That 123 acres, that’s a lot of land for a bike trail,” Pazynski said. “That area is very marshy, has anybody checked it out? I’m somewhat familiar with that area. 

“There used to be a snowmobile trail going through there and they stopped using it because it was so marshy.”

He said an indication of the condition of the land is that the WDOT is willing to sell it for only $650 an acre, claiming “a decent 40 with standing wood would normally go for between $3,000 and $4,000 an acre.”

“I agree with the concept of the bike route,” Pazynski said. “But you know we’ve got a couple other sources that could be developed where you don’t have to invest all this money before you even started constructing trails.

“You’ve got some beautiful scenic lands that are currently being used for the annual bicycle event that is held in Marinette every summer (that could be widened for bike trails). I’m not for this, we’re buying way too much land for too little usage.”

“It (the 123 acres) was appraised at $136,000,” Lefebvre said. “I do understand that probably 90% of it is probably wetlands.”

He said the county originally proposed to pay $500 an acre for the land, but the WDOT said it would be interested in selling it for $650 an acre.

“I think the DOT is just dumping this on us,” Pazynski said. “We have better alternatives elsewhere.”

Lefebvre said a bicycle group in the area has indicated it would be interested in the county creating some type of corridor, and is not excited about widening roads in the Town of Peshtigo for a bicycle trail.

He said in an answer to a question from Supervisor Rick Polzin that no taxes are currently being paid for the land being proposed for a recreation corridor.

Supervisor Mark Anderson, board chairperson and a member of the committee, said he believes the recreation corridor plan would be beneficial to the area.

“John has a very good proposal for this,” he said. “I think he has some ideas where it would take the community and if we let it go to somebody else, we’ll never have that opportunity again.

“I just think now is the time to jump. The whole proposal is good proposal.”

Anderson moved to recommend the county appropriate the money to buy the land. His motion was seconded by Polzin.

“I support the concept of a bike trail, but not in this particular area,” Pazynski reiterated. “I just think we’re buying too much land. We can make a bike trail elsewhere and probably have something better than marshland.”

Lefebvre said that the land now owned by the WDOT could be used  for much more that a bike trail, saying it also could be utilized for many more purposes such as walking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

“It is immediately adjacent to a wonderful parking spot, the wayside, which the county already has ownership of,” he said.