What is this about Ozaukee County being a "Bird City" and why are so many Ozaukee municipalities following suit?
The city of Mequon, the Town of Grafton, the City of Port Washington and our neighboring Village of Newburg have all become part of Bird City Wisconsin in the past four years.
Maybe it is because they understand that the more species of birds an area has, the higher the property values will be. An area that has many bird species needs to have a diverse collection of trees, shrubs and other growing things. Prospective home buyers as well as birds love that diversity of plants and a 2011 study in Lubbock Texas indicated that homes with more than one species of less-than-common birds in the area sold, on average, for about $32,000.00 more than comparable homes without.
Perhaps Bird Cities understand that birds are the indicators of a healthy environment and they are willing to take extra steps to improve the ecological health of their community. The birds are daily reminders that a community has a healthy eco-system, something that more and more people are seeking. The Bird City WI website sums it up well. " Like the proverbial canaries in a coal mine, birds serve as indicators of the ecological health of our planet. Because of their rapid metabolism and wide geographic distribution, birds provide early warning to us of changes in the environment and potentially harmful biological conditions. Robust, diverse bird populations reflect the underlying health of the ecosystem in which they – and we – live. Since we share our planet with all other species, what happens to birds can happen to us."
2014 was a very good year for Treasures of Oz!
We had somewhere between 1305 and 388 participants - we don't really know because we do know that some folks go to just one site and some others go to every site and and many come to Forest Beach along the way, often for the food, the music, the exhibits, the silent auction and the raffle. 1305 is the number of people who were counted at each site. 388 is the number counted at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve.
We do know that smiles were everywhere and positive comments floated through the air until the last of the take-down crew departed in the evening.
Our site numbers are below. We love these numbers because we know lots of people are coming to the event but the numbers are small enough that everyone can ask questions and have real discussions at the sites. We want Treasures of Oz to be interactive so everyone can get connected to Ozaukee environment and we think our teams are wonderful links bringing visitors into the world of natural Ozaukee.
Trinity Creek Wetland Habitat 139 Visitors, even residents of southern Mequon, were really surprised and delighted to discover Trinity Creek Wetland Habitat right in the middle of an industrial area off County Line Road.
Mee-Kwon Park 179 We were delighted to have a surprise additional docent, Andrew Struck. Andrew is recovering from a serious sports injury and surgery. We did not expect to see him for weeks, but he is key organizer for this event and found a way to get to Mee Kwon, crutches and all.
Cedarburg Environmental Study Area 121 The ants were a huge draw! Docents, Kate and Tom, did not think anyone would care about ants. They were happily shocked! Visitors really were interested. Kate found ants tending their herds of aphids on some dogwood and another group tending their leaf-hoppers. What a cool opportunity to see what was being talked about in action.
CESA was armed with mosquito spray and a screened tent, as the woods and water can make for a buggy habitat.. The mosquitos boycotted the site for the most part, and we are thankful to them for that.
Pleasant Valley Trails Park 180 Many thanks to the Ozaukee Mountain Bikers and Riveredge Nature Center naturalists for working with Treasures of Oz to showcase this Cedarburg gem.
Lions Den Gorge Nature Preserve 235 It was a long walk to the natural area ravine and beach, almost a mile. Look how many people made the hike! No lions were sighted on Saturday. Visitors always ask why it is called Lion's Den. Are there lions there? Years ago local residents reported seeing "lions" there, most likely bobcats. Recently a mountain lion was seen in Sheboygan County. Interesting. You never know.
Belgium Waterfowl Production Area 63 Serious thanks to US Fish & Wildlife experts, Jim Lutes and Bruce Luebke for traveling all the way to Ozaukee to share their expertise with visitors.
Forest Beach Migratory Preserve 388 Forest Beach had it all - the migratory preserve and the Celebration. A large flock of pelicans came down on the lake just north of the preserve mid-day. Guess they heard about Treasures of Oz.
Big changes are happening to a little creek that runs through the heart of the Town of Grafton and what was once the Ulao Settlement.
At one time Ulao Creek's headwaters bubbled up in the Ulao Swamp beginning in an area that is now covered by the WeEnergies fly ash dump. Watercress grew in abundance along the banks. Children swam and people fished in this clear and meandering stream. Wildlife was diverse and abundant.
In the early 1900's, things began to change. Much of this lovely creek was channeled for progress - mostly for the railroad. Later, in the 1950's, Dutch Elm Disease spread through the swamp and many stately trees along the bank fell into and over the creek, bringing tons of debris down with them. In the years following, flooding increased and the need to protect farm fields brought local residents together. The Kaul, Hoppe and Helms families and other creek-side landowners joined forces to create The Ulao Creek Partnership with a mission to improve the creek and adjacent impacted land.
Over the years, The Ulao Creek Partnership, with much support from Ozaukee County, has made vast improvements to the creek, clearing the channel, planting trees for flood control and removing invasive vegetation. The creek, however, has remained confined in its dug channel along the side of the railroad tracks, and that is how most everyone thought it would always be.
Recently something very surprising happened!
Ozaukee County Planning & Parks Department, through its Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program added Ulao Creek to its rivers restoration plan for Ozaukee. They obtained grant funding and hired Solutions 101 LLC, a project management company that goes to great lengths in limiting its footprint on a site, disturbing only areas necessary for the completion of a project. Solutions 101 owner, Jim Sykes, says "We work closely with our clients to create a plan that best fits the owner's vision for the property and to provide a legacy for future generations of land stewards."
Inspired by the conservation focus of the project, Wacker Neuson, a multi-national German based manufacturer of compact construction equipment, selected this project to field-test its newest equipment. Solutions 101 and the Wacker Neuson development team chose the equipment being used for its compact size, versatility, agility, and efficiency. Working with equipment that offers a smaller turning radius and the option to add attachments means less impact is made to the surrounding landscape.
There are 2 areas of reconstruction underway on Ulao Creek, one east of Arrowhead Road and the Gateway site, south of Hwy 60 behind the BP station. This project will work to revitalize the watershed by re-creating conditions similar to pre-settlement times in the project-area parts of Ulao Creek.
The new stream channel, designed to be similar to the original, is being cleared of all brush, small trees, tall grasses and debris using hand tools and mowing equipment. Any man-made garbage that is encountered is properly disposed of and removed from the site. Great care is taken with erosion control during the project to prevent sediment from the area of restoration to move into an unapproved area.
Wetland scrapes are being added to improve spawning and breeding habitat in the Arrowhead Road project area. Ponds will go in where appropriate. Fish, waterfowl, herptiles and other wildlife have been considered in the planning. The entire project is being done with the existing soils – no new soil is being brought in and no existing soil is being taken out. Things are just moved around. Once the new waterway has been constructed and water diverted into the new stream, the existing ditch will be filled and covered with vegetation as a form of natural long-term erosion control. Native trees and understory vegetation will be planted once the groundwork is complete. Ulao Creek Partnership will work with Ozaukee County and many local volunteers in this effort.
Sometimes things happen that no one expects and outcomes exceed hopes. This is one of those stories. Ulao Creek will have a new and improved stream bed in two places, much like it had many years ago. Watershed vegetation will be greatly improved with the planting of native species. Fish and wildlife will have richer and more diverse habitat. The Ulao Creek Partnership and many Town of Grafton residents are already celebrating a restoration of great importance, and one they never expected.
Ulao Creek runs south of the Ulao Swamp through private lands east of I-43. It flows through the Colder's property, under Hwy. 60 and behind the BP station, the Waterstreet Brewery and the Hampton Inn & Suites. From there it flows south, east of I-43 and the railroad. Near Lakefield Road it vanishes, buried underground so I-43 could come through. It re-emerges alongside of the Family Farm on the west border of I-43 and from there meanders south until it joins the Milwaukee River near Highland Road.