BUDA — Last week, a decision at the state level was made to set aside $500,000 to repair the rough roadway inside the Mautino Fish and Wildlife Area, located just west of Buda.
If plans go accordingly, the project is expected to be bid out this winter, begin next spring, and by next summer, it is hoped the park will reopen to vehicular traffic.
Since 2015, the road leading inside the park has been shut off to traffic because of road deterioration and a washed-out culvert. The closure limits easy access to only one of the nine lakes within the 871 acres of land.
Tourism in the western area of Bureau County has taken a hit because of the closure, and many who once flocked to the location to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities have been frustrated at the state’s lack of resources and motivation to repair and reopen the area.
Buda resident Lisa Aber, who is active in the Buda Community Club and has served on the village board for the past 10 years, said she was scrolling on her Facebook last month when she came across a post from one of her friends who had been in the park and took photos of the overgrown area that hadn’t been maintained since 2015.
He expressed disappointment in the state’s decision to shut down a place where people from all over the region and even as far as Chicago once came to enjoy.
Aber decided then to make phone calls to Hennepin Canal Parkway Site Supervisor Tom “Virg” Vandemore, who is also in charge of the Mautino Fish and Wildlife Area, and to state Sen. Chuck Weaver’s office.
Aber also posted to her friends on Facebook to make calls and write letters to see what could be done to get the entire park reopened.
In about a month’s time, word came from Vandemore that the state decided to guarantee the money needed for the road repairs.
“It’s never just one person. It’s always a group. Facebook does wonders,” Aber said, referring to the calls and letters she prompted many to do.
Prophetstown resident Jim Smith, who happened to be fishing on one of the lakes Tuesday afternoon, said if the entire park was reopened, it would draw a lot more people.
“It’s a shame that it’s not utilized more than what it is. It really truly is. It’s a nice, nice area. They need to reopen it,” he said.
Smith has been driving the 45-minute journey to the area for the past 12 years and said it’s a great spot to fish for catfish, bass and crappie.
“You can catch some nice fish in here,” he said, referring to the front area lake where visitors still have access to. “And the lakes in the back probably are better than this one.”
According to Vandemore, the state is working to reopen the road to traffic up to the middle lake within the park before the washed-out culvert is repaired next spring.
Crews have been out mowing and weeding the area as they prepare to reopen. Those with questions can call the Hennepin Canal Parkway office for more information.