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Brainard’s Bridge closed

A DNR fisheries work crew is working to protect the islands at Brainard’s Bridge Park from erosion. They are also removing ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer and using the logs for trout habitat, along with clearing invasive brush. James Card Photo

Work on islands, river

By James Card

Brainard’s Bridge Park will be temporarily closed throughout the month of April as a DNR fisheries crew is working with heavy equipment.

There is an excavator, a tracked grapple machine, and many chainsaws in motion. Giant logs and huge boulders will be moved around. The park may be opened for weekend use depending on the condition of the worksite.

The islands in the stream that are the centerpieces of the park are eroding away. The work crew intends to place boulders around the islands to buffer against the current. The islands will not be rip-rapped. The boulders will only be placed at spots that suffer from the most erosion. They will also move rocks within the river and divert the brunt of the current away from the islands while also manipulating some of the riffles away from the islands to create deeper holes for trout habitat.

“Most of the direct flow is hitting the islands and that is causing the erosion. They could be gone in 20 years. They keep getting smaller and smaller. I’ve got old photos of the islands and the old bridge and the pillars. It was way more forested back then. You could see the head of this riffle in one of those pictures,” said Kyle Kossel, a DNR fisheries technician as he pointed to a patch of bouncy whitewater that is loved by trout and kayakers alike.

They will be working on both sides of the river and a passerby might see an excavator in the middle of the Waupaca River as the operator digs out and moves rocks. They installed a bio-boom downstream to mitigate a potential accidental spill. It is a long tube that resembles a stuffed sock and it is stretched across the river. They are common on construction sites near water.

The work done so far has been felling, limbing and bucking numerous ash trees that have died from the emerald ash borer. The area next to the park shelter looks like a landing at a logging operation.

“We’re going to take them and put them in the stream for cover for the fish. It’s a short, simple project but its going to be a lot of work because of the volume of the rocks we need to move. We’re also going to take care of as many invasives as we can,” said Kossel, referring to the non-native buckthorn and honeysuckle growing along the river bank. The trout-habitat ash logs will be placed around the first couple upstream bends.

The goal is to have it completed by the end of the month. The crew will host a tree-planting day with students from the Chain Exploration Center. The students will plant a wide variety of trees, along with sowing prairie grass seed.

Trout stocking before the opening day of Wisconsin’s trout fishing season will occur at Riverview and Riverside Parks. Brainard’s Bridge Park might be stocked but Kossel said that is the decision of the biologist in charge of the program.

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