Highway 35 businesses still open though road is closed
By Audrey Posten
The Crawford County Highway Department said the 10-mile stretch of Highway 35 from County Highway N north of Prairie du Chien to Lynxville will remain indefinitely closed to through traffic while a construction crew repairs a 330-foot section of the southbound lane, which was undermined when torrential rains caused rock and mud slides two weeks ago.
The state awarded an emergency contract to Hoffman Construction of Black River Falls, who started repairing the road on Monday.
Although the road remains closed to through traffic, local residents, as well as people camping, fishing or visiting businesses in the area, are allowed to access the road.
Dena Schneeberger, who owns the Spring Lake Inn with her husband, said they noticed a slowdown because of the road closure, so they contacted the highway department, asking for a sign to be put up that said the Spring Lake Inn was open.
“That was the day before the Fourth of July,” Schneeberger said, “so the workers had all left, but they called some people back in just to put a sign up.”
As a result of the sign, Schneeberger said weekend business was no different than normal.
“The highway department has been going out of their way,” she said. “We are highly impressed and really appreciate it.”
Despite being open for business, Mitchell’s Liquor Box Tavern and Tackle (formerly Falling Rock Bar and Bait) has not been so lucky. Owner Jon Mitchell said the business’ income has fallen 90 percent since the road closure.
Bill Hubbard Jr., the owner of Hubbard’s Fishing Float, which is located near the Liquor Box, said the closure has hurt his business as well. He is bringing in only a quarter of his usual business, as most of his customers come from Prairie du Chien.
“Most people won’t travel down a closed road,” Mitchell said, “and there’s only a little sign that says we’re open.”
That small sign was put up by the highway department. Mitchell said he created his own larger sign, but that it has been continually taken down.
Hubbard called the “road closed” signs deceiving, since people do not know it is okay to use the road to get to businesses.
“I’m just sorry the local businesses have to suffer,” Hubbard said. “It’s bad enough that the river’s been so high.”
Mitchell said, without the patronage from people at the nearby campground, he did not think the bar would still be open.
“We’re still in business,” he said, “but I sure hope they can get something done soon.”
With the Spring Lake Inn situated just before the road closure, Schneeberger said she gets a good look at the traffic passing through.
“We used to see people turning [to go up N],” she explained. “Now, they’re just whizzing right by. It’s like the road’s not even closed. I even saw a semi go through the other day. Maybe they live there, but I don’t know.”
Crawford County Sheriff Dale McCullick said the department is trying to stop through traffic, but that it is difficult.
“Our guys are already stretched to the breaking point,” McCullick said. “If they have time, they’ll stop people and ask where they are going. We have to rely on people being honest, and you know that doesn’t always happen.”
If a person is stopped on the road without a good reason for driving on it, McCullick said it could result in a $175.30 fine for failing to obey a sign.
He also reminded all drivers to be cautious.
“If someone has an accident on a closed road, they have to remember that their insurance might not cover it,” he said.