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home : news : city news May 30, 2017

Celebrating the signing of the Wisconsin River conservation easement donation were (from left): NWLT Executive Director Bryan Pierce, landowners Kimberly Kelling and Tim Hagen, and NWLT Board President Mary Schwaiger. (Northwoods Land Trust photo)
Celebrating the signing of the Wisconsin River conservation easement donation were (from left): NWLT Executive Director Bryan Pierce, landowners Kimberly Kelling and Tim Hagen, and NWLT Board President Mary Schwaiger. (Northwoods Land Trust photo)
2/28/2014 7:30:00 AM
Rhinelander couple protects Wisconsin River corridor

"Sometimes the only way to save a piece of property is to buy it," said Tim Hagen of Rhinelander. "That is what we did, that is the idea."

Working with the Northwoods Land Trust (NWLT), Hagen and wife Kimberly Kelling have saved a special section of the Upper Wisconsin River.

According to Hagen, they bought a 98.78-acre property in the town of Crescent in Oneida County just to conserve it. The land includes over one mile (5,440 feet) of scenic natural frontage on the Wisconsin River below Hat Rapids Dam south of Rhinelander.

Hagen noted that "there has always been some kind of attachment there because my dad grew up across the river. He talked about it as Eternicka's Bend. I call it River Bend."

A few years ago, Hagen bought 75 acres of what had originally been Eternicka family land on the east side of the river directly across from the new property. In December of 2008, he granted a perpetual conservation easement to NWLT to protect it. The adjacent 50-acre property upstream, owned by second cousin Beverly Engstrom, was also protected with a conservation agreement in 2006.

"A big part of acquiring this piece was Bev Engstrom," said Hagen. "When I expressed an interest in putting out the money to buy this piece of property, we went back and forth on what it would cost and where we would get the money. Bev was very interested in helping out. She definitely helped financially, it wouldn't have happened otherwise."

Kelling noted that "once we signed everything, Bev got into her canoe and went right over to the new property to check it out. She is more than happy to have it protected."

"A lot of people canoe and kayak this river section," Hagen commented. "It is right outside of Rhinelander, and when it comes to rivers in the local area, it is a very undeveloped stretch of river. That was the idea behind buying the land - to protect that scenic canoe and kayak stretch. That was the bottom line, and it worked out well."

"We took some friends there in September and walked down along the river," Kelling related. "There were three different, big groups of canoers and kayakers with 10 or 12 coming down the river at a time."

The family's commitment to the land goes well beyond buying it. "I want to get the property back into reasonable forest management," said Hagen. "It takes a long time, but it is going well."

"There was a red pine plantation that had sections that were dying," he observed. "It was definitely overgrown to the point where it was going to be hard to thin it without having the trees fall down. We had five different foresters come in and look at it. We elected to clearcut it because it was very over-mature. We are now replanting it, and put in 31,000 red pine this year."

"What was pine plantation will still be plantation," noted Hagen. "But in addition, we planted a thousand more seedlings including oak, red pine, white pine and dogwood. All the oak have to be caged to protect them from deer, so we are building cages all the time. We put an individual cage over each one, which works really well."

An open sweet fern field below an esker ridge was also trenched and planted with pines. A second sweet fern field though will remain as habitat for songbirds. Another part of the property was an old jack pine forest. "I have found some jack pine that sprouted this year, but it is not going to be thick, and deer love jack pine," said Hagen. "That is an area that I am experimenting with oak. I've also scattered thousands of thorn apples for the birds. If we can keep the deer under control, now that it has been opened up, hopefully the trees will grow well and get ahead of the deer. It is a work in progress."

While hiking the land to take photos for the conservation easement, NWLT Executive Director Bryan Pierce nearly stumbled upon another significant conservation value - a wood turtle getting ready to lay eggs. The wood turtle is listed by the Department of Natural Resources as a threatened species in Wisconsin.

Pierce noted that this is the ninth conservation easement project completed by the Northwoods Land Trust on the Upper Wisconsin River in Oneida and Vilas counties. Engstrom's was the first. All together, 333 acres and over 3.5 miles of Wisconsin River shoreline have now been permanently protected by NWLT. "All of us in the Northwoods benefit from these dedicated landowners who make the commitment to to conserve their own private lands," said Pierce.

"It has been fun," reflected Hagen. "It is a nice stretch - particularly with both sides now protected. It was all done just for this - to protect it."

Based in Eagle River, the Northwoods Land Trust works in a six-county area of northern Wisconsin. For more information on land protection agreements and the Northwoods Land Trust, contact Pierce at (715) 479-2490 or visit

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 7, 2017
Article comment by: Duane Eternicka

Tim I believe you new My Dad and Mom David and Bonnie Eternicka thanks for what you have done

Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014
Article comment by: Tim Hagen

Gerri, I would be glad to show you where I believe the homestead was. If you are in the area give me a call.

Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014
Article comment by: Eldri Guldan Zahn

What a wonderful thing Tim has done to preserve the Northwoods and the river.

Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014
Article comment by: Gerri Eternicka/Edgren

I enjoyed reading this article very much. When I was a kid we lived down by the dam, not far from the Hagens. I did not know that at one time my family owned land there on the river. I am happy that the land is being preserved. I will definitely visit there next time I come to Rhinelander to visit my family's graves.
Thank you.

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