Archived entries for General Interest

Conserving Water, Benefitting Birds and Business

For many years, Dr. Noel Cutright envisioned the creation of a bird observatory along Lake Michigan. As a renowned birder and ornithologist, he knew that the western shore was a significant stopover point for birds on their migratory journeys, being part of a major flyway stretching from South America to Alaska. So when a golf course in the town of Belgium went on the market, he saw an opportunity.

photo by Kate Redmond

This is a dream-come-true for the late Dr. Cutright and for over 200 species of migratory birds. It’s good for the economy, water conservation and is truly a special place for all to enjoy. Photo by Kate Redmond

Dr. Cutright encouraged the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) to buy the golf course property, which included frontage on the Lake Michigan shoreline, and transform it into a migratory bird preserve. Skeptical about siting a nature preserve on such a manicured landscape, OWLT did their research while experts devised a plan to create several habitat types favorable to migrating birds. Ultimately, they were convinced of the ecological significance of the land and the viability of Dr. Cutright’s vision and began fundraising for the project.

OWLT secured funding for half of the purchase price through the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program, making this incredible undertaking possible. Then, collaborating with local birding groups, many local contractors, and people at every level of government, ten years of land restoration was accomplished in only eighteen months of intensive work.

photo by Ken Tapp

One of Dr. Cutright’s favorite quotes was this one by Rachel Carson: “There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” Photo by Ken Tapp

Today, this special place is known as the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. In addition to providing 150 acres of safe cover for birds to rest and feed, it offers a trail system that winds through the property, and is home to the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, another of Dr. Cutright’s visions. It also uses 10-20 million fewer gallons of water per year than its predecessor. The nearby town of Belgium was planning to dig a new well and build a water tower to meet municipal demand, but since the Preserve was created, the town found it no longer needed more water production.

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!

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.”

Grand View by Julie Schartner 009a2(1)

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.

Dave Caliebe

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!

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!

 

 

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.

Lac La Belle at Dusk

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.

Lucky Stoughton

Dane County and the City of Stoughton now have a new, special place to make their own. As future development continues around this newly protected place, these 40-acres of untouched land will remain a true sanctuary and source of outdoor adventure for community members.

That’s right, Natural Heritage Land Trust (NHLT) recently purchased 40-acres of land that boasts over a mile of frontage on the Yahara River and is a popular stopover for migrating waterfowl (click for a map). NHLT is donating the land to the City of Stoughton to be enjoyed as a conservancy park where the public will have permanent access to the river. The city’s plans for the property include an extension of the bike trail that starts in the heart of the city and presently ends in Viking County Park, just south of the acquired property.

Yahara Waterway

Yahara Waterway by Mario Quintana

This community asset was made possible through funding provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Dane County Conservation Fund, and Natural Heritage Land Trust members. The previous landowner’s willingness to sell the land to Natural Heritage Land Trust for less than its fair market value played an equally vital role.

Enjoy, Stoughton!

Muir Family Farm Protected for Years to Come

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir

The Natural Heritage Land Trust recently announced an exciting development in the preservation of the original John Muir family farm – the purchase of nearly 200 acres in Marquette County between Montello and Portage, WI. The property will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching – continuing John Muir’s legacy of preserving natural spaces for all people to explore, discover, and enjoy.

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John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist and author, founded the Sierra Club and is widely regarded as the father of our National Park System. His family emigrated from Scotland in 1849 and started a farm near Portage, WI. The recent property acquisition includes 38 acres of the original 320-acre farm and is part of a 1,400-acre protected landscape, including the John Muir Memorial Park/Muir Park State Natural Area and the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. A map of the new and existing protected lands can be found here.

john-muirPhoto Credit: 4lakes.org

“Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!” -John Muir

Muir’s passion for preserving natural spaces echoes through Wisconsin’s conservation community. The permanent preservation of this beautiful natural space and piece of Wisconsin’s history would not have been possible without the work of the National Heritage Land Trust in partnership with the landowner and funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, USFWS Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council, The Conservation Fund, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, Wisconsin Land Fund of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, and John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.

To learn more about this land acquisition or the Muir family legacy, please contact National Heritage Land Trust.



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