Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

Your bicycle is a motor vehicle. Probably your horse as well. What about skateboards? Well, It’s all laid out in the signs… or not.

If you happen to visit the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area (SPRA) one thing you’ll see more of than the wildlife are signs. The most common signs are; “Closed Area“, “Road Closed To Motor Vehicles” and “Road Closed To Public Travel“. There are also landfill warnings, underground cables markers, private property signs and Ho-Chunk property maps, all within the world’s most complicated boundary lines! It can get pretty confusing. (Especially when many of the signs are located on plastic barrels that are moving around faster than the pieces in a game of speed chess!) For the moment though, I just wanted to share the solution to a little confusion I had.

Closed Public Travel

Specifically, I wondered about riding my bike on the old pavement roads within the SPRA. Like any average person, I read the signs and came to the most obvious conclusion; If the sign said, “Road Closed To Public Travel” I’d stay off of it. Makes sense. It also makes sense that I could ride my bike on the abandon, paved roads marked “Closed To Motor Vehicles”. Except I can’t. I reached out to Paul Zajackowski at the DNR and he explained;

“Bicycles are only allowed on the roads open to highway licensed vehicles… This is stated on page 25 of the master plan and Natural Resource Administrative Code 45 defines bicycle use on state owned and managed properties. Moving forward for the State Recreation Area, bicycle use will be allowed on the roads open to highway licensed vehicles and designated bike trails once developed. “

So a bicycle is a motor vehicle when reading signs within the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area (and other DNR properties). Well, there’s that cleared up!

But let’s look at this rationally for a moment. The average user will not be reading the master plan or digging into Code 45 to figure out what the DNR has defined as a motor vehicle in this case. They will simply read the signs and assume the most sane interpretation of what they see before their eyes. They will (And should be allowed to in my opinion…) feel perfectly free to ride their bicycles on old paved roads with signs that say “Closed to Motor Vehicles” while staying out of areas that say “Closed To Public Travel” or “Closed Area”. They will do what the signs tell them to do. Remember the KISS principle.. “Keep it simple, stupid”.

What’s more, to add to the confusion, the barrels and signs are constantly being moved, removed, pushed aside and spun around now. With no one out there regularly to supervise the property and enforce whatever rules are printed on signs, let alone interpreted in code, I suppose it’s all a bit of a mute point…

Well, Nevermind then.  As you were…

***Obligatory Disclaimer:  This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Which is sometimes too bad if you ask me!).

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  1. Joshua Krueger

    I have been out there quite a bit hunting and hiking. The signs and maps are understandable if you take a minute to read and look at them diligently. What I don’t understand is that I’ve seen road closed to public travel signs and roads that go through the open to public hunting hiking areas. And yes, they are moved around a lot. There are also tire tracks on almost every road you are not supposed to be on. Who are we to know who made the tracks and if they were “allowed” to be on that road? There is no “policing” of the property that I’ve seen. I know there is quite a bit of farmland in there still in use. More than likely farmers going to and from fields but also people that just don’t like to follow the rules. What about the roads that surround the public area, are you allowed to use the “road” as means of travel between open to public areas or even to just walk through the property? Are they considered private property? The area is confusing to understand at times but also if you just stick to the basics it’s another great area open to the public to enjoy. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to read the master plan front to back…

    1. Author

      Hi Josh, yeah, but my main point here is that your average person is NOT going to read “diligently” so they will take obvious postings as written. I agree with you otherwise. The only farming within the property is done by USDA and while some tracks are theirs, there are other areas where it’s just people muddin’. Personally I’ve had an opportunity to watch a couple of areas specifically where barrels have been removed almost daily, and we’ve put them back repeatedly ourselves knowing that neither the DNR nor USDA has been in the area.

  2. Ken

    I cannot walk or ride a bike due to physical issues. BUT I love driving occasionally in Badger due to it’so historical significance. Stupid government has over reached once more. Some of this land should have been kept as a memorial to the thousands of women and men who worked there and what it did for our country. ***Edited****

    1. Author

      Hi Ken, I apologize for editing part of your comment. It wouldn’t be appropriate here. However I would like to address a couple of important points you made. First, the Ho-Chunk still plan to put bison in their section of the land, but it will take some time to restore the area, put in proper fencing, etc.. They are probably doing the most to move forward on restoring the land now. Also there will be a museum for the Badger Ammo Plant which as you say, is also important. There is also a memorial to the farmers who owned the land before being forced out by the US government. It’s currently on Ho-Chunk land behind a “no-trespassing” sign, so I hope that changes soon.

      To be fair, the story of this land can’t simply ignore the thousands of years that people lived here before white settlers. We also have to recognise that people after people were forced from it. At one point the Ho-Chunk forced previous natives off of the land. White settlers forced the Ho-Chunk off. The US Government forced the farmers off and so on. One can only hope that the land can now somehow begin to recover and least somewhat.

  3. Joe salemi

    We were looking so forward to visiting this property by foot and on bike. However, it frankly seems uneasy at best and actually dangerous at worst.
    With various construction projects, restoration and rules definition still under consideration, I see conflicts on the roads, parking problems, bike-car problems, and a general lack of facilities to handle traffic.
    And without adequate policing, badger could easily be a free for all.

    I envision motorcycles, unwitting crowds, overflowing refuse, broken glass, heavy equipment, and confusion between visitors, visitors and community and visitor-police misunderstandings.
    I feel it is best to stay away until the place is more hospitable. What a shame.

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