IRON RIDGE — For decades, the only instances of trouble at the Neda Mine in Dodge County consisted of the occasional party or group of campers who were able to make their way through the gates.
That changed Sunday evening when the disappearance of three area boys prompted a massive search, creating a sense of uneasiness in this small rural community.
Up to 100 volunteers from public safety agencies around the state, including the Madison and Milwaukee fire departments, assisted in the search of the abandoned iron mine Sunday evening and Monday morning.
It was to a relieved audience that Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt announced the boy’s safe recovery at a news conference Monday afternoon.
One thing though…
The mine was abandoned in 1915, UW-Milwaukee scientist Gretchen Meyer said, and was donated to the university in 1964. Researchers study the colony of about 100,000 bats that winter in the mine, Meyer said.
Why does UW-Milwaukee need to own this mine? There is a fledgling, and largely ineffective, effort for the state government to sell off property it doesn’t need. Such an effort would generate revenue through the sale of the property, puts the property back on the tax rolls, and allows a private entity to get some use out of it. Does the study of a bat colony justify the university owning the property? Could they not sell it off and get permission to study the bats? Does bat research justify the opportunity cost of other uses for this property?
The fact that this property has apparently been owned by UW-Milwaukee for decades needs more study than the bats.