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Germantown, MMSD would swap land under proposal

March 4, 2012

Germantown - The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District would pay $701,000 for 131 acres of the Blackstone Creek Golf Club in the floodplain of the Menomonee River as part of a proposed land exchange with the village that would give the district control of more than 550 acres at the river's headwaters.

The low-lying golf course property east of River Lane at Mequon Road is a priority for acquisition by the district's Greenseams flood management program in the five-county Milwaukee metropolitan area, officials said. Around 5,000 feet of the river flows through the course.

After the acquisition, the course would be closed and the district would transfer ownership of the property to Germantown for public recreation in the center of the village under terms of a negotiated intergovernmental agreement, according to documents distributed to MMSD commissioners. The district would place a conservation easement on the property deed restricting future subdivision or development.

In exchange, Germantown would transfer ownership of its 204 acres at the river's headwaters to MMSD, Village President Dean Wolter said.

The 204-acre property is identified as Wilderness Park on local maps. It is located between Pleasant View Drive and county Highway M, or Wasaukee Road.

Greenseams would provide public access to the headwaters for recreation, including hunting, said Wolter, a supporter of the land exchange proposal.

The Greenseams program owns 350 acres surrounding the park. If the proposal is approved by the Village Board and MMSD commission this month, the district would protect 554 acres at the river's headwaters under its flood control program.

There is a third leg of this deal: Germantown would buy 24 acres of the golf course and incorporate it into Haupt Strasse Park, northwest of Main St. and Western Ave. The 131 acres along River Lane could be attached to Haupt Strasse or designated as open space, Wolter said.

Gaining public access to the golf course property, which is owned by Frank Romano and Troy Schmidt doing business as Romano & Schmidt LLC, provides opportunities for hiking and biking trails along the river, picnic areas, fishing sites and even the possibility of kayaking in spring, Wolter said.

The Village Board likely will act on the land-exchange agreement and its separate parkland acquisition at a regular meeting Monday.

The commission's policy and finance committee is scheduled to act on the Greenseams acquisition and proposed swap at its March 12 meeting. The commission meets March 26.

Prime natural area

The Menomonee River's headwaters, known locally as the Germantown swamp, is one of 40 first-class natural areas remaining in the seven-county region of southeastern Wisconsin, according to an inventory published by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

The tree canopy over the lowland hardwood swamp includes silver and red maple, green ash, American elm, yellow birch and basswood. There is a conifer swamp, more common in northern Wisconsin, in a portion of the wetlands.

Rare flowers that make up the forest's spring carpet include snow trillium and yellow lady's slipper.

Wood duck live there, as do Acadian flycatcher, wood thrush, yellow warbler and northern waterthrush.

Groundwater springs are visible in places, but generally groundwater is at the surface of the soils.

Wetland soils act as a natural sponge in two ways: absorbing rainfall after a storm and trapping storm-water runoff from roads and uplands. These sponges lessen downstream flooding.

Protecting the Menomonee River's headwater wetlands was identified as Greenseams' highest priority in two studies of floodplains and wetlands along the Milwaukee, Menomonee, Kinnickinnic and Root rivers and Oak Creek.

Germantown assembled Wilderness Park in 13 separate acquisitions between 1965 and 1976. It is landlocked, without road access, and has never been opened officially to the public.

The only public access is across district properties along Country Aire Drive or Highland Road. There are no signs designating the publicly owned land.

A Greenseams property northeast of Bonniwell Road and Country Aire Drive offers the best entrance. Walk one-quarter mile on the north side of the fence line extending east from the dead end of Bonniwell before turning south into publicly owned land.

Greenseams owns a 167-acre property north of Highland Road and Mary Buth Lane, southeast of Wilderness Park.

MMSD is planning to build public hiking trails across a portion of this property in 2013 or later.

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