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Tuesday, September 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 48.0° F  Fair
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Trailblazing in the town of Cross Plains
Proposed development threatens key segment of Ice Age path
Potential trail route. Click to enlarge.
Credit:David Michael Miller

Drew Hanson doesn't want to be drawn into the fight over a proposed development in the town of Cross Plains. But he affirms the importance of this patch of land.

"The geology of that area is absolutely unique in the world," says Hansen, trailway director of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation.

The area, where Old Sauk Road hits Timber Lane, contains both glaciated and unglaciated portions. It's within what the National Park Service and state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have jointly designated the Cross Plains National Scientific Reserve.

"That land has been part of conservation plans going back to the late 1950s," says Hanson. "It's highly significant to the Ice Age Trail and Cross Plains Reserve."

As Isthmus has reported ("Glacial Pace," 11/12/04), efforts to complete the 1,000-mile trail authorized by Congress in 1980 have been hampered by a rule barring the National Park Service from directly buying land - except for an interpretive site in each state through which a given trail passes.

Tom Gilbert of the Park Service thinks this sliver of the town of Cross Plains would make "an outstanding interpretative site." In 2003, the Park Service bought a parcel known as the Wilkie Tract; other key chunks are owned by the DNR and National Fish and Wildlife Service (see map). But the interpretive center deal hinges on acquiring the 159-acre Uebersetzig and 180-acre Showers properties.

Gilbert says the Park Service tried talking to James Uebersetzig, who declared his aversion to government ownership of land. Uebersetzig ended up selling to Janice Faga, who develops properties under a variety of corporate names. Faga also has an option to buy the Showers property.

The Park Service and DNR have each ordered appraisals and made offers to Faga to buy most of the Uebersetzig property, purportedly offering upwards of $15,000 an acre. Gilbert says negotiations fell through because Faga kept asking for more money and changing the configuration of land offered for sale.

Last fall, Faga proposed a major development on this property, reportedly for "roughly 100" unsewered housing units. A large number of town residents turned out in opposition and the town board tabled the idea.

On Aug. 20, Faga was back, requesting a map amendment to allow 66 homes on two-acre lots, confirms town clerk Ann Walden. The town's plan commission referred the matter to the town board, which will take it up next Monday, Sept. 10. Additional approvals would still be needed from the town, Dane County zoning committee, County Board and County Executive Kathleen Falk.

"There's many, many, many steps," says Walden. Faga agrees, declining to discuss her proposal on grounds that "It's really so premature, so preliminary."

That doesn't stop critics like Arnold Harris, a trained land-use planner who's helping the town of Cross Plains develop a comprehensive plan. Harris says the proposed development would be "strongly opposed by many people in town," but he's not sure it won't pass.

If it does, he worries about the traffic it would add and the precedent it would set.

"Once you give an unsewered development like this to any landowner, what's to stop other landowners from saying, 'I want the same'?" asks Harris, who sees no standard for allowing one such development and not others. And Faga could later seek additional housing on the Uebersetzig and Showers properties.

Obviously, the best thing for the Ice Age Trail would be if Faga's development were rejected, increasing the possibility she'd sell for public use. But Hanson says his foundation considers the requested map amendment "a local issue" on which it does not intend to get involved. "Our goal is to work with willing landowners," he notes. "We respect private property rights, within the framework of local land-use plans."

Katrina fund: Where the money went

Last week, on the second anniversary of the Katrina disaster, Sammi Tsoutsoulis of Madison got confirmation from an Isthmus reporter of something she'd long suspected: Much of the money raised to benefit Katrina refugees here went to other purposes - indeed, to causes near and dear to the heart of the primary fund-raiser. She's livid.

"To me, that's fraud," fumes Tsoutsoulis, who says she gave $121 to the Katrina Disaster Fund set up in 2005 by Rita Adair, a Dane County social worker in the Allied Drive neighborhood. "It's an abuse of charitable funds."

Adair says about $105,000 was raised in all, and that early on, every cent went in direct aide to Katrina victims, about 30 of whom relocated to Allied Drive, most temporarily. But when federal officials took over paying most of the evacuees' costs in late 2005, there was still about $50,000 in the fund, for which Madison-area Urban Ministry became the fiscal agent.

A lawyer advised that since the original need was met, this money could be used for other charitable purposes. That began what Adair says was "a very long, painful process" of deciding how to spend it.

In the end, the money was given to Allied Partners, a coalition of religious congregations, and allocated to groups serving Allied Drive, including $10,000 for a jobs training program and $8,200 for drug and alcohol treatment. The fund was finally depleted a few weeks back.

Tsoutsoulis is aghast. "It was a fund for victims of Katrina," she says. "Did the ministry offer the money to other Katrina victims?"

MUM executive director Linda Ketcham says that was considered, but Allied Drive was chosen because "the need is so great" and because much of the money was raised by the congregations that make up Allied Partners. Adair concurs, estimating that the congregations gave "probably close to 70%" of the total.

On candid cameras

Early this year, Madison Metro spent $77,339 of mostly federal grant money to add cameras to 15 buses and two transfer stations. What has it gotten in return?

"For the most part, we've been pulling videos in response to requests from police," says Metro spokeswoman Julie Maryott-Walsh. Just last week, Madison Police obtained footage from the west transfer point, from which a woman reported being abducted and raped. And cameras have been used to discipline at least one driver - the guy fired for driving off with a passenger clinging to his mirror.

The west and south transfer stations are equipped with cameras; east and north will be added soon. Five new buses coming on line this fall will be filming, and there are plans to put cameras on another 10-15 existing buses. The cameras, four per bus, capture about 24 hours of in-service footage, then rerecord.

Maryott-Walsh says one frequent use is to point out problem behavior by students to school principals and parents who say, "My kid would never do that!"

Hard news

The local media somehow missed a story out of the UW-Madison last month that got written up by WebMD and posted on the CBS News website .

UW scientists have published a study showing that erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Levitra may increase the production of oxytocin, the so-called "love hormone" released during orgasm. The study's author, Meyer Jackson, has called this finding "a missing link" in terms of understanding whether there are additional effects of erectile dysfunction drugs.

By the way, the first hit that comes up in a search for "orgasm" on the UW-Madison website has a URL but actually links to a hard-core porn site offering "Free XXXX Movies."

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