DNR nixes plans for fencing at Shorewood's Atwater Park

Published on: 11/8/2011

Shorewood - With a goal of reducing crime, officials continue to examine options for securing Atwater Park after hours. But a number of issues - fencing, signage and accessibility of Lake Michigan itself - remain sticking points in a quest to seek a long-term solution.

Residents near the village-owned park implored officials to safeguard the site this summer, citing a number of offenses. Among them: trespassing onto private property, drug and alcohol usage, creating and abandoning fires and littering.

In the past, the village had installed fencing along the beach, but the structures were removed in May 2009 after they were deemed to be in a state of disrepair. With concerns heightened, officials are again planning to place some type of safeguard near the beach area before it becomes a hot spot when warm weather returns next summer.

Officials had considered two scenarios that involve placing fencing from the base of the bluff to the midpoint of the beach. But input from a state agency puts plans in limbo.

Rachel Sabre, water management specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the village's proposals could run counter to the ordinary high water mark the agency identified along the beach.

"The department recommends that if the fencing is reinstalled, that it not extend any further lakeward than the identified ordinary high water mark," Sabre said. "This recommendation is made in light of consideration given to the public's right to access to navigable waterways consistent with the public trust doctrine."

Since neither fencing proposal provides adequate access to the waterways, Sabre said the DNR is recommending the village not consider either option, but continue seeking out other proposals to secure the area. She also stated the DNR recommends the village place signage at lot lines along Atwater Park.

Another alternative was bandied about at Monday's meeting. Officials contemplated placing removable fencing after hours at the top of the bluff to prevent people from walking down the stairway or pathway for service vehicles.

"If the crime continues, we may need to go the next level; there may need to be (police) patrols," Trustee Don Ford said. "I think the board does need to take some kind of action."

Further discussion and eventual action is anticipated at Village Board meetings in coming months.