Friends of Bog group calls boardwalk fire arson

Blaze that destroyed controversial Mud Lake amenity prompts organization to offer reward for info

A FIRE DESTROYED a 30-foot section of the new boardwalk at Mud Lake in the Cedarburg Bog over Memorial Day weekend, and a reward is being offered for information in the case.
Ozaukee Press Staff

A boardwalk that was recently installed at Mud Lake in the Cedarburg Bog was burned on Memorial Day weekend, a case of suspected arson that has the Friends of the Cedarburg Bog offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

“This is the third time we’ve had vandalism since we put in the boardwalk, and it appears to be escalating,” said John O’Donnell, a member of the Friends board of directors.

“We had not had any serious vandalism until this happened.”

The fire occurred Saturday, May 26, O’Donnell said, and burned a roughly 30-foot section of the boardwalk, which is accessed off Cedar Sauk Road between highways I and Y.

Wind apparently pushed the fire into the bog, where it burned two to three acres, he said.

“We believe the intent was to have the whole boardwalk burn,” O’Donnell said. “But the fire spread through the shrubs and cattails and took out a few trees. It could have been an ecological catastrophe.”      

 Mud Lake is home to a lot of wildlife, including some rare plants and bird species that nest in the area, he said.

“It’s a concern that we could have lost some nests or young,” he said.

O’Donnell said there’s no question in his mind that the fire was set, noting the person or persons who set the fire used a powerful accelerant that caused a fire in a marshy area of the 245-acre lake.

“It had to be (arson),” he said.

Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Lt. Marshall Hermann said that the cause of the fire is undetermined, but because there are no natural ignition sources such as electricity on the boardwalk it is considered suspicious.

“We don’t know if it was set intentionally or accidentally,” Hermann said. “We are still actively working on the investigation.”

Mud Lake is the largest lake in Ozaukee County, but one that has been difficult for the public to access for recreational use, O’Donnell said.

Because of that, the Department of Natural Resources allowed the Friends to raise money for and install the boardwalk on land it owns around the lake, a decision O’Donnell said was controversial.

While proponents of the boardwalk welcomed the access it provided, opponents believed it would open the area to people who would overuse or abuse it, O’Donnell said.

“There are local people here who have known about this hidden secret, this treasure we have here, and some people were of the opinion that this (improved access) would ruin the lake,” he said.

The Friends of the Cedarburg Bog raised thousands of dollars for the boardwalk and members provided roughly 400 hours of their time to build the structure.

“It’s been a community effort of hunters, people who enjoy nature, canoeing and kayaking and bird watchers,” O’Donnell said. “Obviously, someone is not too happy this boardwalk is in.”

Since the boardwalk was installed, he said, there have been several instances of vandalism. First, someone used a bolt cutter to disconnect the floating portion of the boardwalk from the main pier, he said. The vandal then pushed it so far into the bog that members had to go out by boat to bring it back and reconnect it to the main boardwalk.

A rack used to hold brochures about the bog was also torn down, O’Donnell said.

Members of the Friends group believe that someone who opposed the boardwalk may be behind the vandalism “unless it’s just vandalism for vandalism’s sake,” O’Donnell said.

“It’s disappointing,” he said. “You would like to think people wouldn’t do that.”

The damaged portion of the boardwalk will likely have to be entirely replaced, O’Donnell said, estimating the cost will be several thousand dollars.


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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