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Sense of Identity & Source of Revenue

Terrie Cooper, a lifelong resident of Door County, considered the view from the top of the bluff in the town of Liberty Grove, saying, “I grew up in Ellison Bay. This is my home. The Grand View property was an iconic view that we had all known and loved. It identified our community. I don’t think anybody ever realized that could change.”

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This 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Photo by Julie Schartner

 

From this Door County high point, one can see the sparkling waters of Green Bay, islands in the distance, and sheer bluffs topped by hardwood forests. Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the scenic overlook for many years, often pulling over to the side of the road to snap photos or take in the majestic view. Only when construction of a 44-unit condominium development began on the property did people realize that this signature view could disappear.

Beyond the community concern, an economic threat also loomed. Door County draws over two million visitors every year, most of whom come to enjoy the scenery and outdoor activities. Tourism accounts for almost $300 million in annual revenue in Door County. Though privately owned, the Grand View property was a de facto tourist attraction that drew thousands of visitors each year.

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“My wife Vonnie and I drive into Ellison Bay every day and always slow down to marvel at the remarkable view. This very special place has been naively taken for granted until the past few years when the potential for development became real.” – Dave Callsen, community member, Photo by Door County Community Foundation

 

Concerned citizens approached Door County Land Trust to help find a solution. The land trust responded, marshaling its resources for what would be a five-year-long commitment to forge a path to preservation of the popular and iconic view. Their expertise in conservation and real estate led to successful grant-writing, private fundraising, and land purchase negotiations. They also partnered with the Town of Liberty Grove, which agreed to take eventual ownership of the land and manage it as a public park.

Through persistence and dedication, the land trust was able to secure funding for the overlook property through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Scenic Byway Program. The 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Door County, known for its beautiful landscape, can rest assured that this destination spot will always remain.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

Enriching Lives, Providing Livelihoods

Camp Nawakwa, in Chippewa County, is a summer camp that has been run by the Girl Scouts for many years. Located on a glacial lake and surrounded by hardwood forest, the camp offers kids a place to experience the outdoors, to connect with nature through activities like fishing, swimming, or hiking, and learn invaluable skills; all while building lifelong friendships. It has shaped the lives of many.

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Camp Nawakwa will continue to shape the lives of Girl Scouts like Sherry Jasper (above), who has been a part of the organization for years.

Sherry Jasper has been a part of the Girl Scouts for decades, starting as a young camper and later serving on the Board of Directors of a large Wisconsin Girl Scout council. “I grew up in Girl Scouting and the out-of-doors program, so taking care of the land and providing opportunities for others to learn from the land is a very strong value that I carry to this day,” she says. So when a portion of Camp Nawakwa needed to be sold to support other programs and properties, Sherry and the Girl Scout leadership approached the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) for help.

The IATA is a land trust whose mission is to create, support, and protect the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a thousand-mile footpath that winds through the state. The trail provides access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas, including privately-owned land near Camp Nawakwa. It also helps feed Wisconsin’s tourism industry, strengthening local economies.

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Because of the Stewardship Program, the community gained a new source of revenue, place to explore, and destination spot! Photo by Dave Caliebe

The IATA did not disappoint. They understood the vision and led the way to make it possible. They collaborated with Chippewa County to secure funding through the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which provided half the purchase price of the land and made this deal possible, and with the Girl Scouts, who placed an easement on the land to ensure its permanent protection.

Because of this project, the camp will remain and have access to an extensive trail improved and maintained by the IATA. And that’s not all. Because of this deal, the land is now managed as a public working forest, supplying the county with jobs and a new source of revenue that also offers 110 magnificent acres of public recreational opportunities like fishing, hiking, skiing, and much more.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

A Legacy and Gift

John Muir, the nineteenth century naturalist, writer and advocate of wilderness preservation, is most often associated with California. He did, after all, spend much of his later life there, working tirelessly to protect its forests and mountains. But his early years were spent in Wisconsin, on his family’s farm near Portage. It was there, amongst woods, prairies, wetlands and glacial lakes that he developed his lifelong passion for the natural world, which became a national legacy and inspiration.

Born in Scotland, Muir came with his family to the United States as a young boy. His parents settled in Marquette County in central Wisconsin and started farming. He later described his feelings at first seeing his new home: “This sudden splash into pure wilderness – baptism in Nature’s warm heart – how utterly happy it made us!” and “Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!”

Photo by Brant Erickson

This Stewardship project protects a Wisconsin legacy while providing locals and visitors with a destination spot where they can explore, recreate and more. Photo by Brant Erickson.

About a century later, Bessie McGwin Eggleston and her husband owned a farm in Marquette County that included 38 acres of what had once been part of Muir’s family farm. Bessie felt a strong personal connection to her land and to nature, writing: “I think we have to help our children learn to appreciate and to enjoy the beauties of nature. If we can develop the appreciation for the loveliness which has been given us, we will also develop the desire to preserve these precious gifts for the heritage of future generations.”

Bessie wished to have her entire 198 acre property permanently protected, to benefit future generations. Although she didn’t live to see it, her wish was granted when her family sold the land to Natural Heritage Land Trust. While a number of organizations and donors chipped in, the fulfillment of this dream wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

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This photo of Bessie on the farm is courtesy of the McGwin Family Photo Collection.

Now, a portion of the land will become part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail while another will be added to the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. And all of it will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching; a fitting tribute to both John Muir and Bessie McGwin Eggleston.

“ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo by H. W. Bradley and William Rulofson

“ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo by H. W. Bradley and William Rulofson

New at Gathering Waters

We are happy to welcome two new additions to the team here at Gathering Waters: Becky Andresen, our part-time Program Assistant and Rhea Bradley, our Outreach & Development Intern.

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Becky Andresen, Program Assistant

As our Program Assistant, Becky will be keeping the office organized and making sure everything is running smoothly while ensuring staff have what they need to thrive. She will also play a vital role with supporting our fundraising and membership program. In addition to working for Gathering Waters, Becky has another part time job with Public Health-Madison & Dane County as a Laboratory Assistant where she tests water samples.

Rhea Bradley, Outreach & Development Intern

Rhea Bradley, Outreach & Development Intern

As our Outreach & Development Intern, Rhea will offer some fresh ideas and support of our outreach efforts, fundraising and special events.  She is currently a student at Edgewood College majoring in Business Management and minoring in Environmental Studies.  She has a strong interest in sustainable business and hopes her internship at Gathering Waters will expand her awareness of the value of land conservation while developing professional skills.

Find out more about these two or the rest of the Gathering Waters’ team on our website.

Welcome Becky and Rhea! 

Nature’s Beauty and Capacity to Heal

As a young boy scout, Doug Jones learned that “you leave your spot better than you found it.” To this day he and his wife Sherryl adhere to this adage. In December 2014 Doug and Sherryl permanently protected a part of their land with Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC).

This restored prairie, situated next to a secluded lake along the Wisconsin River, is helping protect an array of beautiful and brilliantly colored rare fish that call the lake home. According to Dave Marshall, retired Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist and current Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) researcher and board member, these rare fish are “much like the proverbial canaries in the coal mines. They reflect the health of these lakes, which are crucial to the health of the river.”

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Sherryl & Doug Jones

The prairie restoration, planted and maintained by Doug and Sherryl, filters nutrients from groundwater before it reaches the lake. In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms that threatened the future of the rare fish that live only in lakes like these. Since Doug and Sherryl planted the prairie on their property, FLOW has measured – through groundwater and surface water samples – a steady decline in nutrients in the lake next to the Jones’ prairie.

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms.

According to Sherryl, “we planted the prairie because we simply thought it was beautiful, but it’s incredibly rewarding to know that we’re also improving water quality and protecting these special animals.” This unique project serves as a model for protecting waterways throughout the Driftless Area. It was made possible through a partnership between DALC, FLOW and the Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA).  MEA and FLOW provided funding to DALC to protect lands along the Lower Wisconsin River, with a focus on improving water quality.

New Beginnings

As we ring in a new year, many of us stop to reflect on the past year and our hopes for the future. We think about why we do what we do and the value we bring to and derive from it.

Harkening back to the October 2014 Land Trust Retreat here is a list of words that participants offered in response to the question, What is a word that describes what you see, hear, or feel in a place you help conserve?

untamed quiet serene
tranquil peaceful relaxing
removed crunchy squishy
salty verdant fresh
refreshing magic rippling waters water shimmering
raindrops breathtaking soothing
removed home fortunate
timeless wildness unspoiled
magic bird sounds beep-beep
alive rustic primordial
promise opportunity whisper
unspoiled awe inspiring glorious
reverent haunted humble
proud mortal soulfulness
contentment

 

These words inspired creativity in the Retreat Haiku Contest. They also highlight what is so special about the work that land trusts do.

All of us at Gathering Waters wish you ample measures of opportunity and magic, with moments of peacefulness and relaxation, as you enter this fresh, new year!

 

 

Ideas from Wisconsin’s 2014 Land Trust Retreat

The Land Trust Retreat in October was dubbed both “Land Trust 101” and “Executive Director Therapy” by participants, indicating the range of benefits it offered for brand new board members and seasoned leaders and staff alike.

More than anything else participants in this year’s retreat valued the opportunity to network. The strength of the land trust community truly lies in identifying issues and tackling them together.

One retreat session in particular gave participants space to reflect together on the “big picture.” The room was abuzz as each small group moved through a series of questions, rotating from station to station to add to and comment on the ideas of previous groups.LT retreat 2014 (301)

Here are some of the themes that emerged.

Land trust folks know that conserving land over time is an awesome responsibility. These are some of the questions that keep them up at night.

  • What data could we collect on easements that would be helpful for science and management far into the future?
  • What more can we do to ensure resource quality and availability for future generations?
  • How can we weather changes in government programs and resources to manage natural resources?
  • How can we demonstrate conservation’s relevance to more people and make the connection with global and local issues like climate change, poverty, disease?

These are ideas and directions land trusts are interested in exploring.

  • Creative fundraising approaches, like mobile payments, electronic currency, crowdfunding
  • Financing with a Chip Fee or transfer fee for conservation
  • Web-based tools for monitoring and stewardship by staff and citizen scientists
  • Electronic record keeping, with proper standard/filing format
  • Remote-control drones–new ways to access property as well as potential for confrontational issues
  • Pathways to engage the wider community through social media, mobile technology, and virtual tours
  • Becoming more targeted in land owner contacts (work with UWSP on this)
  • Developing a “watershed” message, making riparian buffer zones a “commodity”
  • Treat dairy manure properly in watershed by trails, like industrial waste

Participants also listed ideas for working together to increase their effectiveness and efficiency.

  • Share tools & resources: hardware tools, work crews, monitoring
  • Joint workshops
  • Share donor lists, recognize that overlap occurs
  • Peer support and accountability for meeting standards, whether accredited or not
  • Help/contract for technical support, GIS
  • Cooperate on grant writing/applications
  • Baselines preparation/GIS job sharing
  • Board member shadowing
  • Shared professional support/mentorship
  • Trade off facilitation of meetings
  • Convene board meetings on the same date to share guest speaker
  • Pass CE’s to neighbor, “save” $50,000
  • Serve as back-up holders
  • Mergers
  • Develop expert/skill directory on-line
  • Shared PR, “brought to you by Wisconsin’s Land Trusts”

This is a conversation that will be ongoing. At Gathering Waters we welcome your continued reflections and suggestions on how we can work together to make land trusts stronger. Contact Meg Domroese, Land Trust Program Director (meg at gatheringwaters dot org), or reach out to one of the members of Wisconsin’s Land Trust Council. Council members keep their fingers on the pulse of land trusts and help us to set priorities strategically.

With our Land Trust Alliance partners we will take these ideas up in Ask-an-Expert calls, peer mentoring activities, and other training opportunities, including at future retreats.

 

Changes afoot at Gathering Waters: New staff and a fond farewell

The new year will bring some changes to the faces of Gathering Waters. Read on for an update on GW staffing in 2015:

Sara DeKok, our long-time Associate Director and Member Relations Director will be moving on in January 2015 when she welcomes her second child and puts down roots in the Twin Cities.  She has been a great friend and inspiring leader to all of us here at Gathering Waters and after 12 years with the organization, she will certainly be missed.

We wish her and her family the very best and are happy, knowing she will find a great opportunity in Minnesota to continue her incredible contribution to the conservation movement.

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We wish Sara DeKok a fond farewell.

Kristin Swedlund, whom we welcomed as our new Program Assistant in August, will take on a new role as Gathering Waters’ Development Coordinator upon Sara’s departure.  She has wealth of fundraising experience and is already proving to be a great asset to the land trust community.

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Kristin Swedlund has a wealth of fundraising experience and is a great asset.

And finally, we are eager to welcome a new Program Assistant in early January.  Interviews are currently taking place, so stay tuned for a new face at the office door and voice on the phone!

Land Trust Partners with City to Protect Water

Tall Pines Conservancy has partnered with the City of Oconomowoc on an innovative and exciting program (The Adaptive Management Program) to improve the water quality in their area. Together, they are reducing water pollution from urban and agricultural sources and enabling the City to reach compliance with the Department of Natural Resources waste-water and storm water permit requirements in a cost-effective manner.

Siltation after heavy rains in Mason Creek flowing into North Lake

Tall Pines Conservancy has partnered with the City of Oconomowoc to improve and maintain water quality.

The Adaptive Management Program aims to prevent pollutants from getting into the waterways through improved conservation practices including better leaf collection practices, rain gardens, porous pavement, retention ponds, residential fertilizer control, implementation of an aggressive street cleaning program, better storm water management practices and much more.

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Safer, healthier, more beautiful places to live, work and play.

All of this will mean improved water quality in the Oconomowoc River and Rock River area streams and lakes. It will mean enhanced aquatic and wildlife habitat, reduced aquatic weed growth and algal blooms in area lakes and waterways. This means safer, healthier, more beautiful places to live, work and play.

Pretty cool, right? We think so.

Want to know more about this project? Check out Tall Pines Conservancy’s Fall/Winter 2014 newsletter.

20 Years is a Name Changer

Wisconsin’s landscapes – miles of beach, soaring bluffs, acres of ancient forest – were shaped by the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, the mighty Mississippi and the last great glacial retreat. In short, Wisconsin is defined by water. And, “gathering of the waters” is an interpretation of Wisconsin’s meaning. So in 1994, when it came time to choose a name for a new organization that would work to protect land statewide, our founders sought to poetically reference the special place in which we would work. And so, Gathering Waters Conservancy was born.

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Gathering Waters founders celebrating our 15th anniversary in 2009 (left to right): Bud Jordahl, Rob Chambers, Jean Meanwell, Bill O’ Connor, and Geoff Maclay

As our 20-year-milestone approached, we took a critical look at the way this organization has evolved for and with Wisconsin’s land trusts. While Gathering Waters has entered the vocabulary of many conservationists across Wisconsin and even the country, “Conservancy” was a misnomer, since we do not directly protect land. And, while poetic, Gathering Waters alone left room for confusion over our role.

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So today, we announce a small change with major significance. Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts, exists to help land trusts, land owners and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

The new name doesn’t change anything that we do, but we hope it better captures who we are and opens the door to more connection to the people who care about the places that make Wisconsin special.

We hope you like it as much as we do!



Gathering Waters • 211 S. Paterson St. Suite 270 • Madison, WI 53703 • PH 608-251-9131 • FX 608-663-5971 • info@gatheringwaters.org