Sunset over Lake Superior.

City of Ashland Denied Knowles-Nelson Grant for Boat Launch

The city will need to find an alternative funding source in order to move forward with Kreher Park boat launch.

The state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to deny the City of Ashland $1.02 million in Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds for improvements to the Kreher Park boat launch, citing lack of local buy-in.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that local government entities, donations, and other grants would have funded 27% of the project, while Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grants typically require a 50% match.

“The reality is not all communities are equally well situated to fund big infrastructure projects,” said Sen. Kelda Roys during the public hearing.

The existing boat launch, which provides access to Lake Superior has been listed as a priority project by the Wisconsin Waterways Commission. Its condition has deteriorated over the years; it is inaccessible to larger boats and it is not in compliance with the American Disability Act.

“Right now we have a 40-year-old boat launch that is going to be on its last year of usage,” said Sara Hudson, director of the Ashland parks and recreation department. “More boats could actually launch right within the city and it would be an economic development opportunity and increase tourism to our area. It’s important to our vitality. The lake is right out our front door; being able to continue to provide safe access for people is really important for us.”

“I think we should be listening to people on the ground and local officials and DNR experts about what investments they’d like to see, whether it’s parks, boat launches or ways to access the Great Lakes,” said Roys in an interview after the hearing.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program – named after former Wisconsin governors Warren Knowles, a Republican, and Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat – has historically had bipartisan support, but the program has become increasingly politicized as disagreements arise regarding its level of funding, project priorities, and how much land the state ultimately aims to protect.

Featured image by chumlee10, 2016.

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