Landscaping Plans for the WILD Center

Wild Ones Natural Landscapers Ltd. has recently purchased a house on a 3.5-acre parcel of land, at 2285 Butte des Morts Beach Road, in the Town of Menasha, Wisconsin, that will serve as its educational center and national headquarters. The property, located adjacent to Stroebe Marsh on the west shore of Little Lake Buttes de Morts, is comprised largely of wet-mesic woodland and marsh. The building occupies the center of an upland area approximately 1/2-acre in size that was previously managed as a conventional residential landscape with extensive mown lawn and non-native plantings. With that in mind, we asked Wild Ones members for landscaping designs for our new National Headquarters and here are their great ideas.

Early Landscaping Plans for the WILD Center

Diane Olson-Schmidt submitted a colorful plan that provides lots of opportunity for plant identification.

Diane Olson-Schmidt
Lacewing Gardening & Consulting Services

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Phone: 414.358.2562

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Terry Marvel
Terraforma, LLC

Random Lake, Wisconsin
Phone: 262.339.4233

Based on our communications, I based my design on the immediate concerns regarding the landscape of the 3.5-acre parcel to be to control invasive species, reintroduce native trees and wildflowers in the existing woodland, improve the areas immediately around the building, and construct a boardwalk to the marsh. Wild Ones will realize their vision for the landscape of the new national headquarters when they achieve the following goals:
1. Provide better vehicular and pedestrian access to the building and the grounds.
2. Create outdoor venues for organized educational activities.
3. Develop gardens and make site improvements, which demonstrate the Wild Ones mission to promote environmentally sound landscaping practices that preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration and establishment of native plant communities.

This proposal for the upland portion of the 3.5-acre lot addresses the functional, educational, and aesthetic aspects of these goals. The key challenges of the plan were to:

1. Provide safe, off-street parking (staff and visitor, including one ADA-conforming stall) and drop-off access without overly compromising areas for other functions and desired features.
2. Provide adequate, handicapped-accessible pathways over the moderately steep slopes of the site.
3. Develop strategies to handle and conserve stormwater that serve as educational resources and that inspire visitors to adopt similar conservation strategies.
4. Develop natural landscaping concepts that acknowledge Wild Ones conservation concerns, as well as the urban, industrial context of the site.
5. Develop garden themes that support Wild Ones mission to preserve and restore native plant communities, and promote environmental education.

Terry Marvel
Terraforma, LLC

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Butterfly Garden
Jennifer Baker
Prairie Nursery

Westfield, Wisconsin

Thank you for giving Prairie Nursery the opportunity to work with the Wild Ones on the native demonstration gardens surrounding the new EcoCenter.

I chose to focus on the Butterfly Garden area. This butterfly garden incorporates 614 plants known to attract a diversity of both adult butterflies as well as support their larval stage. Consistent with all my designs, I use a backbone of native prairie grasses and a diverse blend of wildflowers to provide both color, landscape interest and butterfly habitat through the growing season.

I incorporated a 5-foot x 54-foot walking path through the planting so visitors are able to dive into the planting so to speak.

It was a fun project to work on.

Jennifer L. Baker
Senior Consultant/Landscape Designer

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Upland Restorationupland660px
Landscaping Plan

Our plan proposes to develop several different plant communities on the Wild Ones WILD Center upland site.

  1.  The lay of the land will be restored to pre-lease topography with the exception of the parking area on the west side of the property along Butte des Morts Beach Rd and the two driveways. That will remain as parking area and ingress/egress points for one-way traffic.
  2. The gravel base and engineer fabric will be removed from the remaining site and the area will be whipped to loosen and decompress the soil. Except for a portion to be retained for the lake overlook, the topsoil stockpiled in the south berm will be spread in this area to restore to prelease topography.
  3. We will create a short screen comprised of tree and shrub plantings along most of Butte des Morts Beach Rd and in front of the parking area. A combination of evergreen conifers, hardwoods and shrubs will provide an attractive and functional screen that will add another level of diversity to the property.
  4. The portion of the existing “topsoil” berm to the south to be retained will be resculpted with a reduced, more gradual grade to the west. This will allow for trail access to overlook the lake on the far southeastern corner of the property.
  5. A portion of the excess sand which is currently stockpiled in the northeast corner of the parcel will be moved to the southwest corner where a short grass species prairie will eventually be developed. The rest of the sand will be placed outside the disturbed area at the southeast corner of the property for use as a turtle nesting site.
  6. The remainder of the eventual prairie plantings will be tall grass and mesic prairie species.
  7. Oak savanna plantings will eventually be introduced along the existing woodland edge on the east and will grade naturally into the existing tree line to the east. Oak savanna plantings will also be introduced along the east side of the parking area.
  8. There will be substantial trail opportunities provided throughout the entire area which will lead eventually to the rest of the WILD Center site including Stroebe Marsh and hook up with the Trails of the Fox Cities.
  9. After the site is restored topographically and before it is actually planted in prairie and oak savanna, we will be ameliorating the clay by cropping the area up to two successive years of buckwheat and winter wheat rotation. These crops will be used as a “green manure” which will be plowed back into the soil to add organic matter. This will add some significant organic matter to the soil, break up the clay, and keep most weeds in check during the process. Because the site had a substantial invasion of wild parsnip prior to disturbance, we also want to make certain this very toxic invasive weed is eradicated before beginning our prairie seeding.

These plant communities planned will be highly complementary with each providing specific types of cover, food sources and breeding opportunities. Their proximity to the nearby wetlands to the east further increases their overall functionality.

WILD Center Site Restoration Plan

Aquatic, Near-Shore and Riparian Habitat Quality Improvement Projects
Stroebe Island Marsh, Lower Fox River
James Havel • NES Ecological Services

stroebe660The 16 acre project area, located on the west side of Little Lake Butte des Morts, is currently comprised of deep and shallow water marshes bordered by hardwood, floodplain forests. Due to development along the Fox River, much of the west shore habitat has been destroyed. Therefore, the presence of this wetland complex is very important to regional wildlife and that is why NRDA and WI Stewardship funding was granted to purchase the property. However, preservation by itself will not ensure the presence of a pristine wetland capable of supporting diverse habitats and a variety of wildlife species. To fully compensate for the years of environmental damage that has occurred throughout the Fox River system, restoration and maintenance activities must also be conducted. Throughout the last several decades, anthropogenic activities from the surrounding urban setting have impacted water quality and floral diversity within the wetland complex, which has directly impacted wildlife and their habitats. In the future, by conducting several activities at the WILD Center site, Wild Ones will be improving aquatic, near-shore and riparian habitat quality in the lower Fox River area they own and will work with owners of adjacent property to do the same.

1. Wetland Enhancement

The first activity will be the enhancement of the wetland communities. The riparian woodlands require some removal and/or thinning of trees such as box elder. Disturbance has allowed invasive, exotic species to become established and in some cases dominate portions of the wetland complex. Scientific literature indicates a reduction in floral and wildlife diversity when these invasions occur; therefore, in order to increase habitat value within these communities, Wild Ones will eradicate exotic species throughout the 16 acre complex. As these species are reduced and/or eliminated, native forb, sedge, grass, shrub and tree species will be planted to increase floral diversity and foraging opportunities for wildlife. Direct benefactors of these activities will not only be many of the common birds, mammals and herptiles within the area, but also species such as American bittern, blue-winged teal, rusty blackbird, blandings turtles and four-toed salamanders.

The estimated cost per acre to conduct these wetland enhancement activities is $3,650 with a total cost of $21,700 for the Wild Ones site or $217,700 for the entire area. Within this cost is included three years of maintenance to ensure the majority of the exotic species populations are under control before volunteers begin long-term maintenance activities to guarantee project success.

2. Creation of Riparian Buffers

The second activity will be the addition of upland buffers along the wetland in the southwest portion of the project area. Right now, there is an approximate 25 to 50-foot buffer consisting of riparian woodland between the wetland complex and the adjacent disturbed, fallow field and homestead. This buffer provides some benefits in terms of wildlife habitat and water quality protection, but more recent studies indicate that buffers >100 feet in width provide the best protection to the adjacent wetland and value to wildlife. Therefore, Wild Ones will be restoring the current fallow field to an oak savanna community, which will increase the wetland buffer to > 200 feet. Oak savannas were historically common within southern and central Wisconsin including Winnebago County. Compared to the disturbed fallow field, the now rare oak savanna community will have an opportunity to provide habitat for wildlife species of concern such as blandings turtles, red-headed woodpeckers, brown thrashers, field sparrows, and eastern meadowlarks along with many other common species found in the area.

In addition to establishing an oak savanna buffer, Wild Ones will be installing a 25 foot strip of native landscaping between the house and the existing wetland buffer consisting of riparian woodland. This space is currently being maintained as lawn. Although a buffer > 100 feet is preferred, the location of the house limits the amount of buffer that can be installed within this area. The estimated cost to install and maintain these buffers for three years is $23,850.

3. Wildlife Structures

A. Two turtle nesting sites will be located along the eastern edge of the oak savanna. Shoreline development along with the presence of several barriers such as railroad tracks and roadways has drastically reduced suitable nesting locations for turtle species within the area. The nest sites will be sparsely planted with native grasses and maintained annually to reduce weed species. Although many of the turtles species that will use these two areas are common, the intent is to provide blandings turtles with a safe nesting location to help strengthen their local population. If blandings turtles are observed using these sites, their nests will be protected from predators to increase hatching survival.

B. We will investigate the suitability of adding nesting platforms within the emergent marsh for tern species. Forster’s and black terns are known to utilize the Little Lake Butte des Morts system, but their use of the Stroebe Island marsh is not well known. Surveys will be conducted during early June to determine use and to decide if strategically placed platforms will attract the birds once they begin nesting. Although these activities are species specific, both terns are species of concern within the region and could use additional assistance to increase nesting success.

C. A specialized concrete box culvert approximately 8′ wide and 30′ long under Stroebe Island road will be constructed, providing passage for herptiles between the northern and southern portions of the marsh. Currently, many frogs and turtles have to cross Stroebe Island Road to access the different portions of the wetland complex, which seriously threatens their survival. The culvert will have open grates on the road surface that will allow light to penetrate and permit vegetation to grow along an open water channel. The light would encourage use and vegetated strips would allow safer movement of herptiles within the culvert, especially if predatory fish are also using the culvert. This structure would be used in place of one of the additional culverts proposed by the WI-DNR fishery biologists (in project # 6B below). The cost to construct the specialized culvert is estimated at $50,000, the plants and rock material which should be placed within the culvert would be approximately another $5,000. The additional roadwork to complete the installation is included in the estimate of project 6 B. The cost to add the wildlife structures would be approximately $60,000.

4. Installation of Rain Gardens

Rain gardens composed of native plants will be installed between the existing homestead and the riparian buffer. The gardens will treat surface water runoff from the developed part of the site to protect water quality and it will serve as a demonstration site for neighbors. The ability to provide an up-close and personnel look at a functioning rain garden will assist us in educating and persuading neighbors located on Stroebe Island to undertake similar actions. Since they border the eastern portion of the marsh, their actions can directly impact the adjacent wetland. Estimated cost of rain garden installation – $ 6,500.

5. Stormwater Assessment and Abatement Project

The other threat that will be addressed is a point source discharge of untreated surface water runoff into the marsh. There is currently an eroded channel that flows into the southern marsh, located south of Stroebe Road and east of Butte Des Morts Beach Road, which appears to be collecting water from Hwy 41, the afore-mentioned roadways, and several businesses including a rail yard. Based on the condition of the channel, it appears runoff volume and velocities have resulted in increased sedimentation and disturbance to the wetland community. In addition to the sedimentation issue, nutrient and chemical inputs may be adding to the degradation of the system. To determine the extent of the problem, Wild Ones proposes to conduct an assessment of the stormwater runoff within the area, with particular attention being paid to the lands located west of the wetland complex. In this assessment, we will investigate water sources, approximate volumes and quality of water entering the wetland, and potential solutions/alternatives to the problems. This investigation will include discussions with neighboring residents and businesses, the Town of Menasha, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Although this project will not directly correct all identified issues, it will allow us to begin preparing remediation plans which can be implemented in the near future. If these problems are not addressed, the wetland complex will continue to degrade and along with it a regionally significant habitat for wildlife. Estimated cost for conducting the surface water runoff assessment and planning the abatement project is $7,500.

6. Protecting and restoring pike spawning and nursery habitat

A. A narrow strip of land currently protecting the Stroebe Island marsh from wind and wave action is threatened by erosion. Rip-rap suitable for spawning substrate will be used to shore up this barrier on the south side, and native plant materials will be installed behind the rock to enhance habitats for spawning fish in high water and other species at lower water levels. Some dredging of bottom sediments may be necessary in summer to create optimum depth and slope when the rock is placed on the ice the following winter. Estimated cost $10,000 – 15,000.

B. In order to maximize the value of the marsh for pike spawning, water flow needs to be increased into the northern part of the marsh, maintained by Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, now limited by the Stroebe Island Road causeway. Engineering for this project and culvert installation by the Town of Menasha will cost about $80,000.

C. After completion of parts A and B of this project, carp barriers may be installed by WI-DNR Fisheries at the southern mouth of the marsh and in the culverts under Stroebe Island Road to keep carp out of the lower marsh altogether. This would prevent erosion and other problems caused by carp from damaging the pike habitat in the marsh. Estimated cost $30,000.

James Havel
NES Ecological Services


Adopt An Oak

Help the development of the WILD Center’s oak savanna by sending a generous donation today. We suggest a $200 donation toward the adoption of a 2 to 2-1/2 inch diameter bur oak tree. Wild Ones business member Lake Shore Cleaners has offered to provide the trees and do the planting work at cost. Your name will appear on a donor plaque noting your special donation.

Click here if you want more details before donating.