Oconto preserve soon to be open

June 29, 2015


Fox 11 News

OCONTO - A new 70-acre wetlands preserve will soon be open in Oconto.

The preserve is located within city limits, near the high school on the north-east side.

A state program helps buy land in projects like this, but that project may be up for cuts in the upcoming budget.

At the corner of Franklin Street and Jones Avenue sits the future home of what's being called the Oconto Preserve.

The non-profit group Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust closed the deal two weeks ago.

"We see this purchase and this preserve as an asset for the community that will be here for generations to come," said Deb Nett, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust Executive Director.

Nett says the $150,000 project was paid for through donations and a grant from the state.

That grant came from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

The upcoming state budget proposes a freeze on future land purchases through 2028.

"We are doing a bit of advocacy to let our legislators know that projects like this are helping," said Nett.

Republican State Representative Jeff Mursau of Crivitz says the stewardship program is a priority, but buying more land may not be the way to go.

"What I support is a tightening up on the money. And making sure that purchases that are made are very important. Very needed in the communities that they're being done," said State Representative Jeff Mursau, ® Crivitz.

Meanwhile, plans for the Oconto preserve, are moving forward.

"To the city, to local conservation groups, to the local high school, and local folks to see and learn what they want us to make out of this project," said Nett.

Local leaders say the preserve will be good for the city.

"This is the way we grow here. Bringing in new people so that they're able, maybe they've never been to Oconto before. Now they're going to have a wonderful preserve to come to Oconto," said Victoria Bostedt, Oconto Mayor.

The preserve is expected to be open within a year.

This is the 50th project for the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust.

In its 19-year history the group has preserved more than 5,000 acres of wetlands in the area.

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