Stillwater Township: Park Service asks public to weigh in on future of Fairy Falls

So many people visited Fairy Falls north of Stillwater during the early days of the pandemic that National Park Service officials were forced to close its day-use area. The hiking spot, located within the boundaries of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, doesn’t have a parking lot, and “visitors were parking in adjoining neighborhoods, often […]

Stillwater Township: Park Service asks public to weigh in on future of Fairy Falls

So many people visited Fairy Falls north of Stillwater during the early days of the pandemic that National Park Service officials were forced to close its day-use area.

The hiking spot, located within the boundaries of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, doesn’t have a parking lot, and “visitors were parking in adjoining neighborhoods, often 60-plus cars at a time,” said Sheila-Marie Untiedt, chairwoman of the Stillwater Township board.

In addition to complaints about parking, nearby residents raised concerns about “trash, noise, urination and speeding,” Untiedt said. “That’s not acceptable. Those neighbors were understandably unhappy.”

Now, National Park Service officials are working to determine the future of the 54-acre waterfall area and hiking trail located in Stillwater Township.

Trail erosion at edge of falls and cliff, Fairy Falls, May 22, 2019. (Photo by Nicky TePoel)

One major issue: Unsafe conditions in the area, specifically in regard to deteriorating trails along steep slopes, said Julie Galonska, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway superintendent, which also have an impact on the natural resources of the area.

Officials are asking the public and local community to share their thoughts and perspectives about Fairy Falls, “particularly for improving safety, protecting the natural environment and enhancing visitor experiences,” Galonska said. The public-comment period is open until Nov. 15.

The area is posted with signs warning people that the area is closed, and violators will be prosecuted. Rangers are monitoring and patrolling the area and have the authority to issue citations if necessary, she said.

In 2019, a group called The Friends of Fairy Falls won the Stillwater Area Community Foundation’s Great Idea Competition. The group organized a day to remove invasive species and pick up trash in the area.

John “Jack” Wachlarowicz of Mahtomedi said there is a lot of community support to preserve and keep the Fairy Falls area open to the general public — not just the immediate landowners.

“I would hate to permanently lose access to this public land,” he said. “It just seems sad that at a time when so many are again seeking to connect to the outdoors that we would simply limit their access to public lands instead of seeking solutions.”

The Stillwater Town Board has not taken an official position on Fairy Falls, Untiedt said.

“It’s a stunning amenity in the community that has become popular through social-media posts,” she said. “But the National Park Service needs to accommodate parking for Fairy Falls on their property.”

TO KNOW MORE

The National Park Service’s public-comment period on the Fairy Falls Day Use Area runs until Nov. 15. To comment, go to: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/fairyfalls, or mail Lisa Yager, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, 401 N. Hamilton St., St. Croix Falls, WI 54024.