‘Memorable outdoor experience’
Snow covers the ground in Hillside Township in southern Pierce County, and Ted and Tamara Mertz are playing a waiting game.
The Anamoose couple plans to build an RV park on the northeast shore of Antelope Lake and have contacted numerous entities to get the process underway. The Pierce County Board of Commissioners and the county zoning board have signed off on the project, but a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers is not expected until early April. Contractors for roads, water and sewer have been asked to submit bids and the power company was contacted. The state health department is also involved in the planning.
Prep work on the site started last fall with the removal of some trees where the boat landing will be. Ted also did a little dirt work to slope the land for the dock. With the recent thaw he thought he could cut brush, but the snow is still too deep.
The delays are not all bad though, the Mertz’ believe, because it gives them a chance to thoroughly think things through. “If you put something in the wrong place to begin with, it will cause a mess forever,” Ted said.
“The trickiest thing is sewage disposal,” he added. “The health department will design it and tell you how many septic tanks you need, the size of the drainfield and so on.”
The health department also has guidelines for campsite placement. “Some campsites will be within 100 to 200 feet of the water, some further back,” Ted said. “As you get closer to the water the rules for sewage get quite a bit tougher and we’re following state health and corps of engineers regulations.”
Some plans are mostly finalized, according to Ted. All the slots will be seasonal and designed for motor homes, fifth-wheelers and other campers. “I’ve been approached by a fair number of people who would like to put up a cabin,” he said, but so far there are no plans for that.
“I can fill 25 spots right now,” Ted said, adding that most of the inquiries have come from area residents. He figures with an average of four or five family members for each unit, that will be a manageable number.
Ted and Tamara are also trying to be sensitive to the needs of the neighboring landowners, knowing that more people bring more traffic, more noise, more litter.
“We don’t want a bunch of wild parties out there,” Ted said. “It’s to be a family place where people can leave their stuff out from week to week and not have it vandalized.”
A public-use area is not in the plans at this time, but the Mertz’ are contemplating special events on summer holiday weekends.
Like many bodies of water in the area, Antelope Lake is still growing, but since the northeast corner is on higher ground, most of the expansion now is to the west.
“There’s always been fishing there but in the last seven or eight years it’s taken off,” Ted said. “People from everywhere come to fish, mostly for walleyes and perch. It was incredible last summer.”
But this winter is a different story. Ted speculates it’s because there are so many freshwater shrimp in the lake the fish aren’t very interested in biting.
A mid-summer opening is what the Mertz’ are shooting for, but much of the work will depend on the weather. The nearly mile-long access road will be the first project, with electricity to the park second. “I’m hoping we can start in April,” Ted said. “There should be major changes in May.”
But for the next couple of months Ted and Tamara will keep plugging along, modifying some plans, refining others, all with the goal of creating a park that will not detract from the natural beauty and charm of the area, while giving campers a memorable outdoor experience.
“We want to do it right,” Ted said. “Antelope Lake is a special place.”
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