Years after flooding closed in on this lakefront community, they’re down to one road in and out of town

CRYSTAL LAKE, Wis. – While the flooding sustained during the spring of 2019 is coming up on its three-year anniversary, its impacts are still fresh for the communities surrounding Crystal, Fish and Mud lakes.

The high water has sustained closures to all but one entrance to the neighborhoods surrounding the lake.

Some streets, like Fish Lake Road, will forever remain underwater.

We had five options out here at one point in time,” said Bill McFarland, who lives near Schoepp’s Cottonwood Resort along Crystal Lake. “Now, we’re down to one road. Which means emergency exit is only by Barta road. If we’re going to Lodi, we’ve got to go four miles west to go east.”

The detours have created a number of problems, once causing emergency vehicles to reroute when a man in the area was having a stroke. 

The ambulance took 45 minutes to get here,” said Donna Ackerman. “They didn’t upgrade the GPS. They came thinking they could come Mussen (Road), which they couldn’t. Then they came back around again and tried to take Schoepp North (Road), so finally they came in through Barta (Road). (My husband) could have died.”

One road, however, has McFarland and Ackerman hopeful. Underwater since 2019, North Schoepp Road, which connects directly to Highway 60, is clear. The two signed a petition, which gathered more than 150 signatures, to reopen the road. The plan failed.

It’s soft,” said Town of West Point Chair Ashley Nedeau-Owen. “When a heavy vehicle drives over it, it sinks. If there’s an aggregate because that sinking is not a mathematical progression, it’s a geometrical progression. As there’s more weight put on it, the amount of sink increases.”

Nedeau-Owen says prior to the initial flooding, the township had plans to redo North Schoepp entirely. Following the flooding, leaders were forced to spend $173,000 to raise Barta Road, draining reserve funds to 3 percent.

I’m trying to figure out what we can do, how we can work with the money we have,” he said. “We continue to do what we can given the resources we’re provided.”

Those who live near the resort say they’re dissatisfied with the explanation.

Frustration,” McFarland said. “ I just wish he would listen to us.”

Nedeau-Owen says another reason as to why the township prefers not to invest in the road is the chance the lakes could flood once again.

The climate scientists are telling us repeatedly, in our area, we’re going to see an increase in total average annual rainfall,” he said. “That’s going to continue to increase until 2050.”

Eventually, he says, Crystal, Fish and Mud Lake could become one, flooding until they reach the Wisconsin River. Should that happen, he says the problem could remedy itself naturally.

I don’t know what the right solution is, I don’t,” he said. “We’re out there looking for that.”