ATTEND THE MEETING: Tuesday, August 23rd from 9am - noon in Vilas County Courthouse Conference Rooms A-D


Please send a short email (3 sentences or so) to the Vilas County Board of Supervisors expressing your opposition to allowing ATVs on the Rustic Road: The Subject should be: "No ATVs on the Rustic Road". Address your email to: and ask her to forward it to all County Board of Supervisors.

The Vilas County Board of Supervisors is meeting on Tuesday, August 23rd. One of the agenda items is approving the Rustic Road as an ATV route. Whether or not you are for or against ATV use in the County, ATVs have no business driving on the Rustic Road, which is purposely narrow and windy. Allowing ATVs on the Rustic Road will create a serious safety hazard! The County has cited safety as the primary reason for its original plan to remove thousands of trees and widen the road. It is hypocritical for them to even consider allowing ATVs on the Rustic Road!

Please join us at these Rustic Road Status Update meeting(s) to learn important information about the future of our Rustic Road.

At the meeting, we will discuss:

  • Status of road repair, road improvement and vegetation management guidelines being established with the County Highway Department addressing:

        • Preservation of tree tunnels and tree canopy

        • Tree-free zone and tree removal guidelines

        • Brushing guidelines

        • Road shoulder

  • Restoration of sections of the Rustic Road

  • Recent road repairs performed by the County Highway Department

  • Expected timeline for brushing to recommence and tree removal and repaving of road to begin

We are looking forward to getting feedback from the community. Please join us!

PS- Willie Otterpohl (County Board of Supervisor and Chair of Highway Committee) and Troy Schalinske (Highway Commissioner) have been invited to both meetings.


7/7/22 Update-

Road Maintenance on Highway K:

There are two projects that the Highway Department is implementing that will impact the Rustic Road in a positive way.

1) Pothole Repair - There is a severely potholed sections of CTH K by Lost Canoe that the Highway Department is planning to resurface with asphalt. They will not be widening the road or cutting trees. They will merely be repairing problematic sections of the road by laying down new asphalt over the top of the existing potholed road bed, approximately a total of 2,800 feet. As disclosed in my most recent update, the Highway Department currently intends to resurface the Rustic Road in its entirety in 2025, without widening the road, without adding 3’ paved shoulders or creating a 10’clear zone. The current project is just a temporary fix to improve the road until the road gets completely resurfaced in 2025.

7/12/22 Update: Highway Commissioner Troy Schalinske advised me yesterday that the Highway Department would be cutting butt joints for the 2 sections by Lost Canoe Lake yesterday. Paving is scheduled for today and Wednesday, weather dependent.

2) Curbs to Improve Drainage on CTH K in Star Lake Area - The Highway Department is evaluating options for improving drainage in several hilly areas of the Town of Star Lake (between CTH “N” and Stillwaters). Rainwater has washed out shoulders and accumulated in these areas creating puddles on the road, which is a safety concern. The Highway Department is considering options for improving drainage by adding additional asphalt curbs (NOT CONCRETE) that will help direct the water off the road to stop this puddling and blend in with the asphalt. This will be similar to the existing asphalt curbs that the Highway Dept. added many years ago. This is not a surprise. Troy gave us a heads about this project after the May 27th meeting. He also told the Rustic Road Committee members about it at the June 28th meeting.


Continued Progress Made in Meeting with County Officials

On June 28th, Dick Govier, Joe Heitz, and Doug Scott, of the Rustic Road Road Maintenance Committee, met with County officials as a follow-up to our May meetings. Although we have not crossed the finish line, we continue to make important progress. The purpose of the meeting was to continue discussions on establishing ground rules and a written process for vegetation maintenance, road maintenance and road improvements on the Rustic Road 60 (the “Plan”).

Doug Scott, of Save our Rustic Road, commented that “I am very encouraged. “Great Progress is being made as we work out the details of the Plan. The community is working towards a relationship with the Highway Department that is open, transparent, and based on mutual trust.”

The following bullets summarize the current status of our agreement with the Highway Department on various issues relating to the Rustic Road:

  • No Paved Shoulder At the June 28th meeting, the Highway Department said it had abandoned its plan to add a 3’ wide paved shoulder to both sides of the highway for the entire length of the Rustic Road.However, Troy Schalinske did point out that he could only speak for the Highway Department and not for the Highway Committee of the Vilas County Board of Supervisors. He also shared that he envisioned widening the road slightly around some curves to prevent drivers from driving off the pavement.

  • Tree Tunnels and Canopies remain SafeThe tree tunnels and canopies are still safe. The Highway Department has not changed its position and no longer intends to eliminate the tree tunnels or canopies!

  • No Ten Foot Clear Zone The Highway Department no longer plans to implement a 10 foot-wide “clear” or “tree-free” zone.

  • Community Involvement in Trees Selected for Cutting - The Highway Department and community representatives have scheduled a date in July to walk the Rustic Road together and discuss the specific trees that may need to be removed for safety reasons. During the discussion at the meeting, it was reported that about a dozen trees were so close to the road edge that they had been struck by the snowplow this winter. There was general agreement that these trees may need to be removed. During the road walk, the community representatives and the county officials will assess whether additional trees are considered a safety hazard and whether their removal is necessary.

  • Brushing Clean-up – The Highway Department indicated that in late Fall/Winter this year it would clean-up the mess created by last Winter’s brushing operation. The community representatives had concerns about whether the cleanup could damage smaller intact long-lived trees amongst the stumps and whether the clean-up would further damage trees representing future generation canopy trees.

  • Speed Limit Reduction – The group discussed the benefits that a reduced speed limit on sections of the Rustic Road might provide. Troy Schalinske discussed how a road’s speed limit impacts the recommended highway design guidelines applicable to a normal road under the State’s Facilities Development Manual. He also described the process by which a speed limit reduction could be implemented.

  • Brushing Postponed - Brushing will not commence for the Boulder Junction section of the Rustic Road until the Plan is finalized. There was an extended discussion of the scope, nature and extent of brushing that was contemplated. There was general agreement that the scope of the brushing would be substantially reduced from what occurred this Winter.

  • No Plan for Straightening Road - There is no plan to straighten any existing curve in the Rustic Road.

Bike Trails Committee - During the meeting, Troy Schalinske shared that Libby Scott is forming a Bike Trail Committee that is exploring establishing a bicycle trail that will link Sayner, Star Lake and Boulder Junction. The Committee is exploring the feasibility of various routes that would include town roads and old railroad grades on State Forest land. Such a route would reduce bicycle traffic on the Rustic Road. The Bike Trail Committee is comprised of individuals that have experience designing and financing bike trails.


Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we had some positive meetings with the Highway Commissioner, members of the Board of Supervisors, members of the Highway Committee and the Vice-Chair of the State’s Rustic Road Board over the last couple of days. Your efforts in getting the word out, sending emails, writing letters, making phone calls, authoring letters to the editor and posting banners and signs are paying off. Our message came through loud and clear! THANK YOU!!!

Although we have not crossed the finish line, we have made important progress. However, lots of specifics still need to be worked out. The Highway Department and local officials all want to work with us and begin building back a relationship of trust! Here’s the bottom line of what came out of our meetings:

  • Community Involvement - Troy Schalinske (Highway Commissioner) and Willie Otterpohl (Highway Committee Chair) agreed to work with community representatives to establish ground rules and a written process for vegetation maintenance, road maintenance and road improvements on the Rustic Road (the “Plan”). We would like to have a written agreement to carry the approach into the future. At this point, they resisted committing to a written agreement.

  • Brushing Postponed - Brushing will not resume until the Plan is finalized.

  • Some Trees Need Cutting - The County Forester, Deputy Chair of the Rustic Road Program, Board of Supervisors Chair and Highway Commissioner all indicated that some trees would need to be cut down for safety reasons. Specifically, trees to be cut would include dead trees, trees with low hanging branches that could interfere with large trucks and buses and trees that created a safety hazard because of their close proximity to the road, particularly on a corner.

  • Canopies are Safe - Troy Schalinske indicated that the Highway Department NO LONGER intends to eliminate the tree tunnels or canopies! The tree tunnels and canopies are SAFE!

  • Community Involvement in Trees Selected for Cutting - The Highway Department will mark trees recommended to be cut down, walk the road with the community representatives, and obtain input from the community representatives on the marked trees.

  • No Plan for Straightening Road - There is no plan to straighten any existing curve in the road.

  • Regrets over Brushing - Everyone regretted the impacts of this winter’s brushing operation; however, it was explained that the most severely impacted section near White Birch Village was necessary because of a cluster of dead trees. Sue Glovier also commented that the mess left behind by recent logging operations compounded the issue.

  • Reducing Speed Limit would Enhance Safety - As a means of enhancing safety, reducing the speed limit on some sections of the road was discussed, but no decision made.

  • Paved Shoulder Remains an Open Issue - There was a long discussion about the paved shoulder. The Rustic Road Board member suggested that the road qualified for shared use status (no paved shoulders) because of its low traffic volumes but also said that having a paved shoulder on one side of the road was a possibility. However, the County Highway Department did not commit to any of these approaches and is still considering its options.

  • Clean-up Deferred until Plan Agreed Upon - Clean-up of the mess created by the brushing this winter will be deferred until the Plan is agreed upon. Troy Schalinske indicated that winter snow banks impeded their ability to cut the brush and trees at ground level. There was a discussion of different approaches/tools to be used to clean up the mess, but no decision was made.

We are encouraged by the commitments made at this meeting. The Highway Department has reviewed and agrees with my summary of the meeting detailed in the bullets above. However, there are a number of important issues that are still open and undecided. We should know in the next few weeks whether things are working out as positively as I am hoping. In the meantime, I would suggest that we initiate a temporary cease-fire and suspend our letters, emails and phone calls to local and state officials and suspend our media publicity efforts. This would be a sign of good faith as we move into efforts to resolve the open issues and develop the Plan. If we do not make the progress we desire, we can reinitiate our government and media outreach efforts in full, aided by the funding that the GO FUND ME campaign is raising!

Thanks again for all that you have done and are doing to SAVE OUR RUSTIC ROAD!

  • The only Rustic Road in Vilas County is being threatened!

  • Thousands of trees will be cut down under the Vilas County Highway Department’s plan to widen Highway K

  • All trees within 13 feet of the white line on both sides of the road will be cut down

  • A 3 feet-wide paved shoulder will be added.

  • Highway K's tree tunnels will be permanently destroyed

  • The County Plan does not attempt to preserve the Rustic qualities as required by Wisconsin law - nor have they provided any public notice or held public meetings before launching these changes.

  • The bad news: They have already started cutting the trees down. We need to act now to save the character of the road.

  • Help us save this Northwood’s treasure!

        • Press Here to Email your local officials:

            • Vilas County Highway Board

            • Vilas County Board of Supervisors

            • City, County and State representatives

            • the media to bring attention to this issue, and

            • the Rustic Roads Commission

        • Spread the word! Tell your friends about the Highway Department's plans.

        • Visit the "Save Our Rustic Road" Facebook page

Vilas County Highway Department Plans-
plus extensive tree cutting through out the Right of Way to eliminate the Canopy.

Super brushing (trimming) of the Rustic Road

New Tree Free Zone on both sides of the Road.

Sensitive area of the Road to be brushed later this summer.