- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) - Ben Tilberg is an avid canoeist; he’s been to Quetico in Canada and the Boundary Waters.

But he also likes to stay close to home, where he can share his passion with his family, which includes four children. In the spring, Tilberg, 33, took some of his kids - including his 3-year-old - on Four Mile Creek, off Lake Wazeecha. His plan was to go from White Sands to Nepco Lake.

It took him more than 3 hours - Tilberg had to get out multiple times to portage around the number of fallen trees in the creek, not an easy feat with youngsters in tow. Several trees span the width of the creek.

“These aren’t just twigs in the way; these are large trees,” Tilberg said. “Some of the trees - you can’t put your arm around them, that’s how big they are.

“It sure impeded the experience. It made it less fun, especially when you have to do it nine or 10 times.”

The experience motivated him to make a change - so he started a petition at www.change.org, the Daily Tribune Media (https://wrtnews.co/1p0PP8g ) reported. Tilberg said he hopes to get at least 100 online signatures so he can present Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp and Deputy Secretary Matthew Moroney with the project to clear the creek of the trees.

Tilberg said the project, which he said will be a long-term effort, could bring a flood of benefits to the community.

“This would just bring more people, and then people spend money,” Tilberg said.

The petition is just a start. Tilberg said he has no idea how much the project would cost and said it will involve a joint effort from the DNR, parks and landowners. He’s learning about state waterway laws, as well.

“The landowners own the creek bed to the middle of the creek, but the state owns the water,” Tilberg said.

Tilberg took his idea to Chad Schooley, Wood County Parks and Forestry director.

“My initial thought was that it was a great idea, a great project,” Schooley said.

Schooley has received lots of feedback regarding the creek, he said.

“A lot of people used to canoe this area way back when, and they’d like to do it again,” Schooley said. “Just the volume of people that utilize our South Wood County parks is very large on daily basis throughout the year.

“I think this will just add to that experience, more recreation opportunities, not only here, but also going over to Nepco County Park.”

Gary Sacotte, 62, has lived on the creek for 25 years, and he recalled when there was nice, flowing water there.

“Now it’s just a weeded up mess,” Sacotte said. “We pay some pretty premium taxes for living here, and now it’s just turned into a big mud hole.

“It has been let go,” he said. “It’s sort of a shame.”

Tilberg was one of those people who canoed the creek in his youth and would like to see the area restored to that condition. It’s remote, accessible and could be an economy driver.

“This would be so much fun,” he said.

Tilberg has gotten more than 40 online signatures just by word of mouth and social media.

“I think it would be a great idea for the community to get involved in this and accomplish this goal,” Schooley said.

___

Information from: Daily Tribune Media, https://www.wisconsinrapidstribune.com

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