RUSTIC ROAD 60 HIGHWAY MANAGEMENT PLAN
This Rustic Road Management Plan (the “Plan”) provides guidelines for ongoing vegetation management, road repair and road improvements on Rustic Road 60. The management plan is the result of a joint and cooperative effort amongst the Save our Rustic Road group, other members of the local community, the Vilas County Highway Department (the “Highway Department”) and County officials (collectively, the “Joint Committee”). In developing the Plan, the Joint Committee considered the legal protections of Rustic Roads under Wisconsin law, public safety issues and operational considerations of the Highway Department.
a. Not an Ordinary Road - Rustic Road 60, a 12-mile segment of CTH K between Boulder Junction and Star Lake is the only road designated by the State of Wisconsin as a Rustic Road in Vilas County and one of 120 in the entire State. Rustic Road 60 winds its way through the Northern Highlands State Forest and features tree tunnels, spectacular views of area lakes and historic sites that provide a snapshot into the past.
It features numerous historical sites that allow you to travel back in time to the way the Northwoods used to be. Remnants of the areas logging industry roots abound. A replica Star Lake Train Depot captures the spirit of the Hiawatha train that once rolled through town. The Frederickson’s Minnow Shop gives a glimpse of the days of fishermen from the resort era. Ballard Lake along Highway K is the original home of the Hodag, a monstrous creature that attracted scientists from the Smithsonian to investigate. Further down the road is the home of Aqualand, a musky-themed amusement park from the 1950s. A favorite of locals and a draw for tourists, Rustic Road 60 has been featured in books, magazines and television programs.
b. Legal Protections of Rustic Roads - Wisconsin law takes a protective approach to Rustic Roads.Section 83.42 (1) of the Wisconsin Statute states the purpose of the Rustic Road System:
In order to create and preserve rustic and scenic roads for vehicular, bicycle . . . and pedestrian travel in unhurried, quiet and leisurely enjoyment; to protect and preserve recreational driving, culture, beauty, trees, vegetation and wildlife by establishing protective standards of rustic road design, access, speed, maintenance and identification, which will promote a continuous system of rustic roads and scenic easements for the public health and welfare; a state system of rustic roads is created.
Although the Highway Department is responsible for maintaining Rustic Road 60 and protecting the safety of the public, Wisconsin law requires it to preserve the rustic qualities of the road:
Trans-RR Section 1.08. “A rustic road shall receive the level of maintenance necessary for public travel by auto, bicycle or hiking for recreational enjoyment, while still preserving the rustic qualities of the route.“
In addition, necessary road improvements may be made but shall not disturb the rustic characteristics for which the road was designated.  Road improvements are also required to be kept as narrow as possible to retain the rustic charm of the road as well as keeping the driver’s speed lower." It also provides that the "improvements shall be kept to a minimum to avoid disturbance of vegetation . . ." However, the Rustic Roads Code authorizes the Highway Department to trim or remove branches, shrubs and even whole trees “where necessary for safety or protection of the traveling public.”
The guidelines for road repair, road improvement and vegetation management reflected in the Plan were developed by the Joint Committee for the express purpose of providing a safe road for the traveling public while still preserving the rustic characteristics for which the road was designated. The Joint Committee feels that the Plan fully addresses public safety needs while preserving the rustic characteristics of Rustic Road 60. The Plan provides a roadmap for vegetation management, road repair and road improvement on Rustic Road 60 that will ensure future generations can safely enjoy the rustic charm of this special road.
1. ROAD MAINTENANCE GUIDELINES
a. Routine Road Repairs – The Highway Department can fill potholes, repair the road edge, maintain existing gravel shoulders, repair existing drainage curbs, and make other minor road repairs on the Rustic Road segment of CTH K periodically as needed without advance notification of the members of the Joint Committee. For road repairs that would (i) expand the road pavement, (ii) increase the size of the gravel shoulder, and (iii) involve excavating or contouring the ground adjacent to the road or gravel shoulder, the Highway Department shall provide advance written notice to the members of the Joint Committee and consult with the Joint Committee before commencing such a repair.
b. Other Road Repairs – The Highway Commissioner will provide advance notice to the members of the Joint Committee a reasonable time before work commences unless safety concerns warrant an expedited response and prevent advance notification. In such exigent circumstances, the Highway Commissioner will provide notice to the Joint Committee as quickly as reasonably possible.
2. ROAD IMPROVEMENTS
a. Advance Notification - The Highway Commissioner will notify the members of the Joint Committee of any road improvement projects that would impact the Rustic Road in the earliest possible stages of planning. Notification should occur before Highway Committee or Board of Supervisors approval is sought or before the retention of engineers, architects or contractors.
b. Regular Consultation and Information Updates - The Highway Department will keep the Joint Committee informed, seek their input of and consult with the Joint Committee on important developments on a road improvement project as it progresses.
c. Permissible Road Improvements – All road improvements to the Rustic Road will comply with the requirements of Wisconsin law, specifically Section 83.42 of Wisconsin Statutes and the Rustic Roads Code.
d. Restricted Road Improvements
· Expansion of the Pavement – The pavement of the Rustic Road shall not be widened beyond its existing 22’ width.
· Expansion of Gravel Shoulders – The existing gravel shoulders shall not be expanded beyond their existing width and in no case beyond 3-feet wide.
· Paved Shoulders – The shoulders of Rustic Road 60 are currently gravel and the Highway Department shall not cause the shoulders to be paved.
· Recontouring of the Land Adjacent to the Roadbed or Gravel Shoulders – The Highway Department shall not cause the land adjacent to the Roadbed or gravel shoulders to be regraded or contoured.
3. VEGETATION MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES
a. Mowing – The Highway Department shall mow the grass, weeds and brush along the Rustic Road using only its normal mowing equipment and at a frequency consistent with that applied to other County Highways. The Highway Department will not mow vegetation beyond six feet from the edge of the pavement. Mowing can commence at any time convenient to the Highway Department.
· Brushing - Brushing involves the removal of small trees and bushes within the Brushing Zone (as defined below) and the removal of branches or limbs that currently extend into the Brushing Zone or are expected to grow into the Brushing Zone before the next scheduled brushing (e.g., approximately every three years).
· Brushing Zone – The Brushing Zone means the applicable of the following: (i) Rustic Road 60 from CTH N to Old K means the three-dimensional area that begins at a point six feet from the edge of the pavement on one side of the road, extends six feet past the edge of the pavement on the other side of the road and extends upward to twenty feet above the pavement, and (ii) Rustic Road 60 from Old K to CTH M means the three-dimensional area that begins at a point 12 feet from the edge of the pavement on one side of the road, extends 12 feet past the edge of the pavement on the other side of the road and extends upward to twenty feet above the pavement
· Brushing Best Practices – The Highway Department will ensure that it follows best practices in conducting brushing operations, including (i) using a sharp blade on its Volvo machine to prevent the shattering and ripping of branches that are removed, (ii) having at least one additional Highway Department personnel directing traffic around the brushing operation, (iii) taking care to prevent the damage to adjacent trees and vegetation, and (iv) [OTHER BEST PRACTICES].
· Brushing Timing – The Highway Department completed the brushing of Rustic Road 60 from CTH N to the Boulder Junction town line (the “Plum Lake Segment”) in the winter 2021/spring 2022. The Highway Department may commence the brushing of the Boulder Junction segment of the Rustic Road (starting at the Boulder Junction town line to CTH M) in accordance with the requirements of the Plan after the Plan has been approved by the Highway Committee of the Vilas County Board of Supervisors.
c. Tree Removal – The Joint Committee has agreed upon the specific trees to be removed from along Rustic Road 60 on a tree-by-tree basis. GPS coordinates for each tree to be removed have been collected and are displayed on the Google Map accessible through the following link:
A sample section of the Google Map of the Rustic Road showing trees identified for removal is shown below:
THIS MAP WILL BE REPLACED IN THE FINAL. VERSION OF THE PLAN WITH A MAP SEGMENT THAT ONLY SHOWS THE TREES SELECTED FOR REMOVAL.
Removing the selected trees satisfactorily addresses the Highway Department’s concerns for ensuring public safety and enhancing operational efficiencies for road maintenance and snow removal. It also addresses the local community’s concerns for preserving the rustic characteristics of Rustic Road 60. In determining which trees should be removed, the following factors were considered:
Distance from the edge of the pavement
Location of the tree (Straight-Away or Curve) and visibility
Size of the tree
Impact on the tree canopy
A total of XX trees have been selected for removal (the “Selected Trees”). INSERT BULLETED DATA ON TREES TO BE REMOVED.
Timing of Tree Removal – The Selected Trees will be removed shortly before the Repavement Project commences, which is not expected to occur until 2025.
Marking of Trees – Before the Highway Department (or its contractor) commences tree removal, the Save our Rustic Road and local community members of the Joint Committee will mark the Selected Trees to clearly identify the trees for removal. The Highway Department will only remove the Selected Trees marked and agreed upon for removal.
Advance Notice of Commencement of Removal of Selected Trees – The Highway Department will provide the members of the Joint Committee with advance notice before the commencement of operations to remove the Selected Trees.
Monitoring of Removal of Selected Trees – The Highway Department will provide the Save our Rustic Road and local community members of the Joint Committee with periodic updates on where cutting will take place and the status of tree cutting so that Save our Rustic Road can monitor tree cutting and removal and adherence by the Highway Department with the Plan.
Safety Hazard Exceptions – Additional trees beyond the Selected Trees may periodically be removed if they create a safety hazard, which includes dead or diseased trees or if the tree for other reasons creates a significant objective safety hazard.
No Other Trees may be Removed – Other than the Selected Trees and trees qualifying for the Safety Hazard Exception, the Highway Department shall not remove or cut down any other trees.
4. JOINT COMMITTEE - The Joint Committee consists of four County representatives and four representatives of the Save our Rustic Road group and the local community. In the Joint Committee’s June 27, July 18, August 23 meetings, the Joint Committee made substantial progress towards establishing the standards to be incorporated into the written guidelines for vegetation management, road repair and road improvement for Rustic Road 60. At its September _ meeting,
a. Current Composition – The following individuals are the current members of the Joint Committee:
Willy Otterpohl (Chair of the Highway Committee and a member of the Board of Supervisors)
Mike MacKenzie (Board of Supervisors member)
Troy Schalinske (Highway Commissioner)
Chad Keranen (County Forester)
Save our Rustic Road and Local Community Representatives:
b. Changes in Representatives on the Joint Committee: The County may change its representatives on the Joint Committee, but the current Highway Commissioner and County Forester shall always be a member. Save our Rustic Road and the remaining local community members of the Joint Committee shall identify a replacement member to represent Save our Rustic Road and the local community.
 Section 1.09 of the Trans-RR Code (the “Rustic Roads Code”).
 Section 1.09 of the Rustic Roads Code