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Wells Landing dedication a reunion
Photo submitted A large group of friends and relatives met for the recent dedication of Wells Landing in honor of long-time area conservationist Mike Wells. Standing from left is Audrey Wells, Halie (Wells) Helfvogt, Mikey Helfvogt, Keith Helfvogt and Dennis Wells.
The event resembled a family reunion as a close-knit group of outdoors enthusiasts gathered to honor the memory of Mike Wells, one the area's most admired public servants. Mike passed away in March of 2008 after many years of service to the conservation community.

The now softly-flowing waters of the Pecatonica River's west branch provided the setting on one of the last evenings of Indian summer. The occasion was a celebration of Mike's life as the group dedicated a boat launch along a stretch of the river he visited often with family and friends.

Wells Landing was conceived by Mike's colleagues with the Gratiot Conservation Club, Lafayette County Sportsman's Alliance and the Pecatonica River Enhancement Council. He was also chair of the Lafayette County delegation to the Wisconsin Conservation Congress at the time of his death.

Arleigh Bondele of the Gratiot Sportsman's Club recounted that at the very start of the construction project those involved meant to name the boat landing in honor of Wells. He said the project encountered a number of delays and complications, however, as repeated high water events interrupted construction on several occasions.

Noting there were helping hands too numerous to mention who helped put the project together, Bondele expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed. In particular, he paid tribute to the Schlappi family on whose land the boat launch was built. He also stated that the townships of Wiota and Darlington would maintain the landing.

Glendenning's Ready Mix provided the gravel and cement while George Mau took the lead on construction of the marker that now stands adjacent to the boat landing.

Located along Walnut Road west of Wiota, the landing will offer river enthusiasts another gateway to this recreational jewel of southwestern Wisconsin. Mike Gould, a longtime friend and colleague on the Conservation Congress, noted that the new boat launch is the only one of its kind between Gratiot and Darlington making it easier to conduct clean up operations along the waterway and provide access to the river for canoeists and anglers.

Flanked by her daughter, Halie Helfvogt and her eight-month-old grandson, Mikey, Audrey Wells, Mike's wife of 30 years, expressed her appreciation for the work done in honor of her late husband. "Whenever I'm around you people I feel Mike's presence," she said with a tear in her eye. While now residing in Monroe she said, "This will always be my home, my community."

Mike Wells served on the warm water committee with the Conservation Congress, making him an instrumental part of the decision-making process for the protection of waters such as the Pecatonica. Known by his reputation as a boots-on-the-ground advocate for environmental protection, Mike would help out where ever he could, according to Audrey.

"He loved being outdoors," Audrey reminisced later. "He really cared about protecting our natural resources."

- Lee Fahrney is the Monroe Times outdoors writer. He can be reached at (608) 967-2208 or at