For more than 40 years, the Wolf River Preservation Association has contributed both time and money to the enhancement of the Wolf River.
“Our intent is that the river is there for everyone to use – from canoeists to fishermen,” said Mike Klatt, who is the chairman of the association.
A small group of local residents who shared a concern about the river formed the nonprofit association in 1968.
Since then, the Wolf River Preservation Association has worked to keep the river clean and safe.
Their objectives include promoting safety on the river, preventing riverbank erosion, educating the public about issues affecting the river, cleaning up the river, promoting fish and game habitat, and evaluating buoy placement.
In the last 16 years, the association has applied for and received a series of Lake Management Planning and Protection grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It has sponsored more than $80,000 of research and protection projects through the grants.
Volunteers do the river cleanup each spring.
“Historically, we try to do a river cleanup in June, depending on the water levels,” said Mike Abraham, who is the association’s treasurer.
Among the items they find in the river are tires, batteries, televisions and couches.
“Whatever the garbage man won’t take is what we find. It takes all day to clean it up,” said Klatt, who has been a part of the preservation association since the late 1970s.
The Wolf River Preservation Association covers the river from the Waupaca and Outagamie county line north of New London to just south of Fremont at the Waupaca and Winnebago county line.
Abraham said the association works with the Tri-County Power Boat Alliance when it does the spring cleanup and also partners with the alliance on other projects, including signage for the river.
The preservation association’s mission is “to promote a safe and navigable waterway and to preserve the Wolf River for future generations.” The association is made up of associate members and voting representatives from the city of New London, town of Mukwa, city of Weyauwega, town of Weyauwega, town of Caledonia, town of Fremont and village of Fremont. Each municipality pays annual dues of $500.
The city of Weyauwega is the only municipality of the seven that is actually not on the river.
“They understand how important the river is to the surrounding communities,” said Abraham.
He and Klatt recently presented a plaque to Weyauwega Mayor Don Morgan in recognition of the 40 years that Morgan has represented the city on the association.
“It takes people like Don to keep the organization going. He’s been with us 40 years,” Klatt said. “We thank him for his continued support.”
When Morgan was appointed to the association in 1971, the group had its own patrol boat.
“The city of Weyauwega had an interest in it, because so many of the residents use it (the Wolf River). It’s a recreational resource. We still want to protect that resource,” Morgan said.
The mayor said that he once owned houseboats, and while he no longer does, he still loves the river and wants to preserve it for his grandchildren.
The association meets every March and October at the Fremont Village Hall. An individual membership is $10. To join the association, call 920-982-8521.
Abraham said that this spring, local residents may notice canisters at area resorts and boat dealerships. This fund drive is being held to help defray the cost of the annual spring cleanup and the cost of maintaining the buoys that the association places in the river.
In addition to the annual clean up of the lake, the purchase and maintenance of the buoys is the other major project of the group.
A total of 90 buoys are placed in the river each year.
The exact placement of those buoys is approved and permitted by the Wisconsin DNR.
“Since we have put those buoys in, we have not had the fatalities at those corners. We used to have at least one per year,” Klatt said.
It costs a little more than $100 for a buoy, and they generally last about five years.
“The buoys are repainted and relabeled every year,” said Klatt, who stores them at his home. “There are a lot of people who donate time. The buoys are held down with a 12-inch cement block with a cable and chain.”
When the river gets high or a tree goes down, it is not unusual for Klatt to wake up and find a buoy in his front yard, with a note attached to it that explains where it was found. “I will put it where it belongs,” he said.
He remembers the days years ago when his father made buoys out of sheet metal and says his father passed on to him the importance of taking care of the river.
“When you live on a river and you use the river, you feel you have to give back,” Klatt said. “In order for it to keep going, we all have to do our own little part.”