Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?
– Five Man Electrical Band

Opinion – To be honest, you could sort of see it coming. The issue was simply that so many people were walking around this somewhat blind corner that sooner or later somebody was going to get hurt. You see, the heavily used sidewalk along the south end of Devil’s Lake comes to an abrupt end long before connecting to the west side trails, forcing hikers moving between the East and West bluffs into the traffic. To add to the confusion, there is a parking lot across the road, a busy boat landing AND now a designated off-leash pet swim area as well.

That’s where the “FIX” came in.

Road Construction - Devil's Lake

Widening South Shore Road, Summer 2014

The obvious solution was to extend the sidewalk to Cottage Grove Rd. From here hikers can safely cross to the West Bluff trail or continue down Cottage Grove to Tumbled Rocks trail. Somehow though, a sidewalk didn’t happen. One can only assume it was a budgetary decision that lead to an alternative; just widening the road with black top, then painting a line. Well, the obvious fault here is that drivers are now going to park here. (Not to mention the lack of any real barrier between hikers, dogs and cars that goes unresolved.) In fact, I’ve already seen it.

Devil’s Lake State Park never has enough parking during peak months and folks park just about everywhere now. Anyone who has visited the park during a peak weekend knows exactly what I’m talking about. “Signs and fines” just won’t work when folks already traveled hours to get here. They’ll just park, take the fine and call it price of admission. And lets face it, the park today lacks the law-enforcement to really have an impact on parking issues.

So what was the answer? Post signs. Lots and lots of signs… Lots of signs. Now I’m sure there is some general concept of “low-impact” infrastructure in parks and natural areas, but it wasn’t applied here. When you build a county road within a state park it seems aesthetics go out the window. You’ll need to watch the birds which populate this struggling wetland area through a fence line of “NO PARKING, NO STOPPING, NO UNLOADING signs. And most likely, through parked cars.

Now, had the folks in charge simply put in a sidewalk in the first place, this wouldn’t be an issue, but it will be. Add nearby loose dogs to the mix and we’re going to see more problems along this corner of the lake, not less. Given the state of park budgets going forward, there also won’t be anyone around to do anything about it.

What do you think? Share your comments below!

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