Archived entries for Operation Fresh Start

Land Swap at Patrick Marsh and Waunakee Prairie

Natural Heritage Land Trust and Dane County this week swapped land to improve management of two public natural areas.

Dane County donated 14 acres of land on the south side of Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area (map), on the eastern doorstep of Sun Prairie, to Natural Heritage Land Trust. The land is adjacent to the 80 acres owned by Natural Heritage Land Trust and is part of a 320-acre wildlife area. In exchange, Natural Heritage Land Trust donated 40 acres of land north of Waunakee to Dane County. This land, the Wilke Prairie Preserve (map), is adjacent to the County’s Waunakee Prairie.

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Patrick Marsh

At Patrick Marsh, Natural Heritage Land Trust has been working with Patrick Marsh Conservancy, Sun Prairie Rotary, Patrick Marsh Middle School, and other groups to improve trails and restore wildlife habitat. In November, 250 students from Patrick Marsh Middle School planted 18 acres of prairie in a field on the south side of the marsh (click here for the video). This fall the Land Trust officially adopted the DNR land at the marsh and will work on more improvements to wildlife habitat. The Land Trust works with volunteers, a summer intern crew, Operation Fresh Start, and others to make the wildlife area more accessible, educational, and enjoyable for everyone.

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Wilke Preserve

The land Dane County is gaining in this swap, the Wilke Prairie Preserve on Six Mile Creek north of Waunakee, was created in 1994 when Hazel Knudson donated 40 acres to Natural Heritage Land Trust. According to Land Trust Executive Director Jim Welsh, “Hazel’s original goal had been to see her land become part of the county’s system of parks and natural resource areas. It’s nice to see that 22 years later we could fulfill Hazel’s wishes.”

According to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, “The land exchanges with Natural Heritage Land Trust are wonderful examples of how Dane County continues to collaborate with our conservation partners to deliver a quality and seamless recreational experience for residents of and visitors to Dane County.  These exchanges will increase management efficiencies and reduce operating costs by consolidating land holdings where the County or the Land Trust already owns other conservation and recreational lands.  My special thanks to Natural Heritage Land Trust for all it does to further the goals of the County’s Parks and Open Space Plan.”

Nurturing At-Risk Youth Through Conservation in Dane County

What follows is an incredible example of the non-traditional partnerships being pursued by Wisconsin land trusts that are having a multi-layered impact on their communities.  Congratulations to the Natural Heritage Land Trust for being such forward-thinking leaders in the Dane County area.

Natural areas that need restoration and young people at risk both benefit from a new partnership between Natural Heritage Land Trust and Operation Fresh Start. The project is thanks, in part, to a recent $38,400 grant from the Madison Community Foundation.

The Dane County Partners for Recreation & Conservation (PARC) grant program, the other main funding source, awarded $21,700 to the joint project in May. Project partners will use the funds to make lasting improvements to protected lands in Dane County and provide job skills and a conservation education to low-income youth.

The project will employ Operation Fresh Start (OFS) crews to complete conservation and facility improvements at five sites where Natural Heritage Land Trust is working to permanently protect natural habitats and wetland features.

OFS has decades of success preparing youth struggling against poverty, school failure and other life-limiting difficulties to become self-sufficient through employment training and education programs. Work on environmental projects is part of the OFS focus on community service.

Through a partnership with Operation Fresh Start, Natural Heritage Land Trust will work with at-risk youth on their protected properties, including Westport Drumlin seen here.

Starting in the fall and winter of 2012, crews will construct fishing platforms and piers at Black Earth Creek and Lake Belle View in the Village of Belleville, and construct or reconstruct trails at Cross Plains Conservancy Parks and the Westport Drumlin State Natural Area.

The program also involves restoration work on various prairie, wetland or savanna habitats at places like Hickory Hill on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Patrick Marsh, Lake Belle View and Westport Drumlin.

Besides the conservation of cherished local landscapes, says Natural Heritage Land Trust Executive Director Jim Welsh, the joint effort will help the public enjoy and understand these exceptional and accessible natural areas.

“This project is an important chance for our two organizations to invest, along with funders, in the future of our communities,” he adds. “With the support of the Madison Community Foundation and the PARC program, Natural Heritage Land Trust and OFS can give some motivated young people hands-on experience managing natural places, possibly introducing
them to careers that involve environmental protection and the out-of-doors – a benefit to all of us and our natural heritage.”



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