City Works To Restore Lakeview Fishing Pond

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MTT News Desk's picture
Matt Geiger
City of Middleton employee Bill Byers sets a fish crib on the ice. When the ice melted, these structures sank to the bottom, where they provide habitat for fish.

A city employee is spearheading an ambitious plan to transform the pond at Lakeview Park from a morass of overgrown weeds into a sustainable fishery. And he wants to do it without using any tax dollars.

Kurt Breunig, a Middleton Public Lands Department worker, is focusing on making the three-acre fishing hole particularly accessible and welcoming for young anglers and disabled individuals.

In a sense, the project began several decades ago, when a young Breunig began experiencing the great outdoors with his father.

“I’ve been fishing with him since I was five years old, and not just once or twice a year but all the time,” he recalled. “We’d go to Governor Dodge [State Park], and I remember always stopping for ice cream on the way home.”

Years later, Breunig still enjoys fishing with his father, who now uses a wheelchair.

“One day I couldn’t get him onto a frozen lake when we were trying to go fishing together, and I realized how many people are probably being prevented from fishing because of issues like that,” he recalled. “That’s when I really made up my mind.”

Breunig was reminded of his experiences again last June while mowing at Lakeview, an 80-acre municipal park located at 6300 Mendota Ave. in the City of Middleton. He observed a young boy walking up to the pond with a long fishing pole and an exuberant smile on his face.

As he mowed, Breunig saw the smile fade when the boy’s hook became instantly and hopelessly entangled in an expansive clump of Eurasian Water Milfoil, an invasive species that was clogging the pond.

The boy moved down shore, only to once again see his line end up snagged in the weeds.

“He was all ready to go fishing, but after a certain time he just ended up defeated,” Breunig recalled. “He went home dejected.”

The child’s disappointment – which the city employee feared would prevent him from growing to love outdoor recreation - spurred Breunig into action. He contacted Penni Klein, Middleton’s public lands manager, and other city departments. He also got in touch with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries staff.

Together, they devised a project that would enhance the pond’s ecosystem while adding Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramps, picnic areas, and another fishing pier.

The plan began with weed removal last year. Breunig purchased a pole-mounted cutter and began manual weed removal.

“It’s a nasty weed, and it will replant itself,” he said of Eurasian Water Milfoil. “Our goal is to keep on top of it. Basically to mow it if we have to.”

Next, the team constructed various structures to submerge in the pond. They built fish cribs, spawning beds and more. They placed the items strategically atop the ice during the winter months, letting them sink to the bottom during the spring thaw. (Rock piles are scheduled to be added next month.) The man-made features were designed create better fish habitat, hopefully allowing them to exist in an authentic environment.

Eurasian Water Milfoil isn’t the only foreign invader in the little pond. The notorious Asian carp, which is causing widespread damage to Wisconsin’s ecosystem, is also present in the pond. A plan is in place to remove them – using bow and arrow hunting – this May.

The pond will be stocked with bluegills, bass, catfish and fathead minnows. State fishing laws apply, and anglers are also asked to only take a limit of 10 bluegills and one bass and/or catfish.

The estimated cost to overhaul the pond is $43,144. The price tag includes one ADA on-shore fishing pier, two ADA picnic tables, fish to stock in the pond, and DNR permits.

Fundraising efforts began in 2012, and the City of Middleton has already spent $10,600 on improvements. (That funding, allocated by the Middleton Park, Recreation and Forestry Commission, came exclusively from developer impact fees and not directly from tax dollars.)

Those working on the project hoped local civic groups and citizens would pitch in to bridge the funding gap.

And they did. The Middleton Optimist Club recently donated $5,000 to the project. Other contributors have added $2,250, bringing the project even closer to completion.

Randy Schmidt co-founded the Optimist club’s annual Kids Fishing Day 15 years ago. He said the event, which takes place at the Lakeview pond, has provided free fishing gear to more than 3,000 children to date.

“Lakeview is a good place to spend quality time with your child,” Schmidt said, “but over the years the pond has become degraded. The goal is to restore it to a sustainable condition.”

Like Breunig, Schmidt has fond memories of fishing as a youth.

“Parents really need activities that don’t cost a lot, with few distractions, where they can spend time one-on-one with their kids,” he said. “That’s what fishing is, and you can’t do it without a good pond.”

Breunig is appealing to the rest of the community’s generosity to help finish the project. Checks should be made payable to: Middleton Public Lands, Recreation & Forestry, 7426 Hubbard Ave. Middleton, WI 53562.

An upcoming brat stand will also raise funds for the project. The sale will take place at Bunbury and Associates Realtors, 6650 University Avenue, starting at 10 a.m. on April 28.



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