foot trails

Blue Mound volunteer group alleges DNR threats, cover-up in dispute over snowmobile trail

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DNR parks director Steven Schmelzer and Missy Vanlanduyt, the recreational partnerships section chief, set up an Aug. 5 meeting at the park with two representatives of the Friends group, according to court documents and DNR records.



Steve Schmelzer

Schmelzer






“Our intent is to hopefully meet at the park on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon with just Steve and I, with you and perhaps one or two other board members if you’d like,” Vanlanduyt wrote in an email to Friends president Willi Van Haren. “We don’t intend to bring our attorney and would like to keep this a casual conversation.”

At the start of the meeting, according to the complaint, Schmelzer said if the Friends did not drop their court challenge by Aug. 17 the agency would terminate its operating agreement, ending a decades-long partnership through which the Friends have raised more than $1 million to support the park.



Brian Potts (copy)

Potts



“There are a lot of words to describe the WDNR’s conduct at this meeting: intimidation and retaliation are a couple that come to mind,” the Friends’ attorney, Brian Potts, wrote in an August letter to Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. “The bottom line is that this kind of behavior is not just illegal; it should have no place in our state government.”

‘Silver bullet’ memo

Hoye maintains the DNR did not attempt to retaliate or intimidate the group, but a meeting memo released to the State Journal in response to an open records request outlined an agenda that begins with “review of existing agreement” followed by bullet points stating:

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