Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money” popped into my head this morning, shortly after I checked out the details of a plan that will put Nordic skiers in a 40-foot-by-8-foot trailer when they access the McMiller Trails this winter.
The shift announced last week doesn’t create the same scene of desperation conjured in Zevon’s anthem, but it will leave some stuck in a cold place – the portable toilets that will be installed outside the trailer.
For decades, skiers and shooters have mingled together at the McMiller Sports Center, in a comfortable lodge with indoor bathrooms, tables, a snack bar, ammunition and a fireplace. It’s arguably the best warming shelter in the Kettle Moraine system, and the result of McMiller’s unique combination: a popular shooting range and 25 kilometers of superb ski trails, including a biathlon course, in the KM forest south of Eagle.
I discovered Garden & Gun Magazine in that lodge, and always enjoyed the discussions of wax and weaponry echoing in the same room.
Skiers are being nudged – not at gunpoint – from that lodge, in a plan detailed last week by Paul Sandgren, the superintendent of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
The trailhead, or access point for the ski trails, is being moved about 1/3 mile south, toward Highway NN, and the heated trailer and portable toilets will be set up there. Sandgren was waiting for the trailer to be delivered on Tuesday.
It will be open seven days a week, while the lodge is only open on weekends. Sandgren said he was not certain whether the trail from the present lodge to the new trailhead would be groomed this season, but skiers will be able to use the building and the bathrooms.
The increased use of the rifle and shooting range, expanded retail sales in the lodge and the need for more parking prompted the change, according to Sandgren. Both the shooting range and the Wisconsin Biathlon Association events have grown in popularity, and demand exceeded the 150-car capacity in the parking lot, he said.
The trailer set up is supposed to be temporary – one winter – before the Department of Natural Resources builds a new heated shelter with indoor toilets at the new ski trailhead for the 2014-’15 ski season.
It’s worth noting that the promise of a new building comes with the caveat: “Provided funding availability.”
That’s probably what put that song in my head.
Sandgren mentioned that the ideal would be to build a new shelter similar to the one on the Zillmer Trails, in the Northern Kettle Moraine. It was built with timber harvested from the forest. Inside, visitors relax surrounded by pine walls and warmed by a cast-iron wood stove.
Private donations provided more than $5,000 to build that welcoming shelter.
If skiers want to recreate that lodge it at McMiller, they will have to lobby hard for it with the DNR, and probably offer to send some money. The guns are already there. Hold off on the lawyers.
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