Off-road vehicle park proposed in Forest County

This driveway could be part of Wisconsin's first off-road vehicle park in Forest County.

FOREST COUNTY - Plans are moving forward for a proposed off-road vehicle park in Forest County.

It still needs to be approved by the county board.

The 10,000-acre site would be the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

The park would be located in the town of Caswell near the intersection of highways G and O, northeast of Crandon.

Forest County leaders say this quiet road could lead to the next regional tourist destination.

"There are thousands of people leaving Wisconsin every year that enjoy off-road enthusiasm. They can't, there's no park for them," said Jim Schuessler, Forest County Economic Development Partnership executive director.

An off-road vehicle would feature a trail system 16 miles square.

"We'll be focusing on motorized non-motorized trails. The motorized being ATVs, side-by-sides, full-sized pickup trucks, motorcycles," said John Schnorr, Wisconsin Off-Road Vehicle Park, Inc.

Project leaders introduced the plan at a news conference Tuesday in Crandon.

Not everyone is on board with the plan. Environmental groups have concerns.

"Off-road vehicles of all types have potential to cause noise and air pollution, soil erosion," said Shahla Werner, Sierra Club, John Muir Chapter director.

Jim Odekirk farms next to the proposed park.

He says he doesn't agree with the $11 million price tag.

"I don't have a major problem with an off-road park, what I have is problems with, number one, the county, the taxpayer picking up the bill for a private playground," said Jim Odekirk, Town of Caswell.

Project leaders say over the next four years, State grants, loans, and County funding will pay for the park.

"Even using all four phases, even with the development of the small park, the entire exposure would be less than $5 million, so all of those payments are going to be made through the profits of the park," said Schuessler.

Schuessler says park users will end up giving back some of that money.

"15,000 is what we estimated. And that's where, over the course of three years, we're showing profits of $2 million."

Shuessler says the money could fuel the local economy.

"It can happen for the business owners who are suffering in the Northwoods right now. To be able to create a venue that doesn't exist in the Northwoods today," said Schuessler.

The Forest County Board expects to vote on the issue at its next meeting.

If the plan moves forward, the county could start buying land by this fall, with the park possibly opening next year.