Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Ashland

City of Ashland

Habitat Creation, Protection, and Monitoring

A. Comply with Wisconsin's "Smart Growth" law for land use planning and resource management. This criterion is an option only for applications submitted before July 1, 2017.

in 2017, Ashland completed and apprroved Authentic Ashland 2035 – A Comprehensive Plan for the City of Ashland, which complies the Wisconsin Smart Growth laws. The new comprehensive plan outlines Ashland’s values and how the City will work to protect and strengthen our natural setting and resources; our small city character and our sense of community; our heritage; our arts, architectural roots, and recreational assets; and our economic prosperity.

The full text of Authentic Ashland 2035 – A Comprehensive Plan for the City of Ashland is available online.

B. Describe organized bird monitoring or data obtained from researchers or volunteers in the local park system. (Exclusions: Programs that receive credit under 4C: Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out)

Ashland’s park system is extensive and includes habitat for many bird species, including open water, sand beach, emergent coastal wetlands, and varied woodlands. More detailed data on birds detected at these sites is available upon request.

  1. Prentice Park is a 99-acre park with two (2) miles of primitive walking trails, camp sites, wildlife viewing platforms overlooking cattail hemi-marsh, artesian wells, head waters for one of the Fish Creek tributaries, and a wide range of forest types including lowland cedar, black ash swamp, aspen, and spruce. It is well-known as a premier birding hotspot in the area particularly for waterfowl and forest landbirds, especially during migration eBird shows an impressive 179 species for the Park but even this number is underestimated and easily surpasses 200 species through the past several decades based on data gathered via Christmas Bird Counts, May Counts, a formal Chequamegon Bay Waterfowl Survey conducted by local biologists, and extensive observations made by Northland College professor Dick Verch and his ornithology students.
  1. Maslowksi Park is located along the Lake Superior shore and includes three rock and sandy beaches that provide important loafing and foraging habitat for shorebirds, gulls, terns, and other waterbird Its offshore waters are shallow and relatively nutrient rich, attracting large numbers of Tundra Swans and diving ducks during migration. The park also includes a short trail through shrub wetlands leading to Prentice Park. With an eBird list of 135 species, it ranks among the best birding locations on Chequamegon Bay, particularly for shorebirds and other waterbirds.
  1. The 17-acre Bayview Park also sits along the Lake Superior shoreline and provides important shoreline and open water habitat for various bird Most notable is the “Tern Island”, an artificial structure constructed in cooperation with Wisconsin DNR that hosts one of only two nesting colonies of state-endangered Common Terns in the Lake Superior basin. Up to 150 pairs nest here annually. The park’s offshore waters are also important for Common Loons and various diving ducks, especially during fall migration. Onshore, crabapple trees planted within the park attract Cedar Waxwings, Pine Grosbeaks, and other frugivores. No fewer than 119 species have been found here, according to eBird.
  1. Part of the 11.5 mile Ashland Rails to Trails System (ARTS), is the Waterfront Trail built on an old railroad bed that follows the shoreline of Lake Superior for almost 5 miles and traverses all stages of forest succession. Breeding species include American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, Gray Catbirds, Warbling Vireos, Cedar Waxwings, and much more. During migration, these shoreline woodlands provide important habitat for migrating landbirds. Retention ponds along the route feature Sora and Virginia Rails, shorebirds, sparrows, blackbirds, and other migrants.
  1. The Historic Soo Line Ore dock stretches out into Lake Superior 1700’ and was acquired by the City in June of 2014. The Public gained access to the first 800’ in August of that same year. eBird reports that 83 species have been already reported at the park. The majority are shorebirds (plovers and sandpipers), gulls, snowy owls, falcons, and various waterfowl in the water and air. Warblers, sparrows, finches, and other songbirds have been seen on the mainland where small woods occur.

D. Document that current municipal planning seeks to provide additional bird habitat.

The City owns over 30 acres of land within the “Bay City Creek” overlay district (lands within three hundred (300) feet of the ordinary high water mark of Bay City Creek), which runs from rural areas south of Ashland, through the city, and into the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior. The creek and its associated ravine form an oasis for birdlife and a major wildlife corridor within city limits, hosting black bears, bobcats, many migrant songbirds, and breeding birds such as Ruffed Grouse, Veery, Great Horned Owls, N. Cardinals, and various warblers.

In the next year, the City of Ashland will be undertaking several projects that will provide additional bird habitat and bird viewing area within the City limits. The Maslowski Beach Green Infrastructure Project, will implement green infrastructure BMPs to improve water quality and migratory bird habitat at Maslowski Beach. The Bayview Pier Project will replace the aging pier structure with a new ADA complaint walkway and pier for swimming, fishing and viewing. The first phase of the Ashland Ore Dock Project will also begin this fall with construction of community seating area near the entrance of the Ore Dock. The ultimate goal of this project is to gain access to the end of the Ashland Ore Dock for wildlife viewing, fishing and personal enjoyment.

E. Describe your community’s ordinance demonstrating that your community does not restrict natural/native landscaping that emphasizes native plants and non-turf lawns.

Ashland promotes natural landscaping and native yards through Property Maintenance Ordinance # 750.

F. Show that your community offers the public information on how they can control and remove invasive species in order to improve or maintain bird habitat.

The City offers property owners information on invasive plant control via (1) press releases, (2) education pieces such as brochures and handouts located in city hall, (3) workshops conducted in cooperation with the Northwoods Cooperative Weed Management Area, and one-on-one education via the Department of Planning and Development.

G. Document that there is a segment of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail or a designated Important Bird Area within or adjacent to your community.

The Fish Creek Slough on Ashland’s west end is site #4 along the Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail. Site #15 is the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, which lies less than two miles from the City limits. Ashland’s lakefront features a significant portion of the Lower Chequamegon Bay Important Bird Area.

H. Show that the local Chamber of Commerce or a similar group (e.g., an Audubon chapter, Wild Ones, etc.) takes an active role in the planning process for protecting and enlarging favorable bird habitat.

In the fall of 2017, the Chequamegon Audobon Society and USFW donated a very large plastic tarp to shade out nonnative/invasive plant species on a steep hillside along the waterfront trail. The City plans to remove the tarp in 2019 and, with the help of the Chequamegon Audubon Society and USFW, restore the site with native plants important for migratory birds.

N. Show that your community works on public lands to control invasive species that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.

Every other year the City works with the Northwoods Cooperative Weed Management Agency to remove buckthorn from Prentice Park. Two years ago, 7 dump truck loads of buckthrown was removed (and treated) from the park and property disposed of. 

Community Forest Management

A. Demonstrate that your community has been awarded Tree City USA status by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Ashland continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 2003.

Limiting or Removing Threats to Birds

A. Describe your community’s educational program to control free-roaming cats and/or the manner in which you actively publicize the Cats Indoors! initiative.

According to Ordinance #351 “Ordinance Pertaining to the Licensing, Regulating, and Maintenance of Dogs and Cats within the City of Ashland”, the City of Ashland restricts animals (dogs and cats) from running at large. Brochures to publicize the “Cats Indoors” program that helps educate the public about the problems associated with free roaming cats will be distributed at the public library, city hall, and Bretting Community Center. The American Bird Conservancy “Cats Indoors” program’s website is also on the City’s Bird City Ashland page.

B. Demonstrate that your community provides property owners with information on how to protect birds from window strikes (e.g., online links, brochures).

The City provides links on birds and window collisions to the following important websites on its Bird City Ashland page on the City’s Parks and Recreation and Planning and Development web page.

Public Education

B. Provide web links or a community newsletter demonstrating that your community educates property owners on methods to create and enhance backyard habitat for birds.

The City provides links on birds and backyard habitat to the following important websites on the City’s Bird City Ashland page.

C. Demonstrate that your community is represented in at least one citizen science bird monitoring program (e.g., the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count, Swift Night Out).

Ashland is represented by several bird monitoring programs, including: the Ashland Christmas Bird Count which has documented 96 species of birds over its history, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and use of eBird through which Ashland residents have recorded 249 species in, or adjacent to, city limits over thousands of checklists all-time. In 2012, 688 eBird checklists detailing 209 species were submitted by local birders and participation continues today.

D. Describe your community-sponsored annual bird festival. This must be a multi-day event or a truly exceptional one-day event.

Ashland is primary host to the annual Chequamegon Bay Birding & Nature Festival. The Ashland Chamber of Commerce is a major partner on the steering committee, handling marketing, registration, logistical, and other duties. Many field trips involve destinations along the Ashland lakefront and to city parks.

E. Illustrate a program that involves schools, garden clubs, or other organizations in bird conservation activities.

The City of Ashland’s Beautification Committee and Monday Gardening Club are volunteer groups responsible for helping the City maintain flower beds and parks throughout the City. Both of these groups are made up of Master Gardeners who have a passion for gardening. In 2014, the volunteers from the Beautification Committee took on the extra work and assisted the City in reclaimed the H. Pearson Plaza Park’s native gardens. These volunteers have turned this park around, propagating native plants important to small migratory birds. Over 100 species of plants and trees can be found through the park. This group also took on the task of planting perennial grasses and flowers in the medians along one of Ashland busiest streets.

The Monday Club has been beautifully maintaining Menard Park for over 20 years. This park’s gardens are filled with annual, perennial, native and non-native plant species that are important to bird conservation.

Energy & Sustainability

B. Show that your community goes above and beyond in its support for, and implementation of, green transportation (e.g., bike trails, rideshare programs, bike trails/lanes, etc.). Be sure to utilize the narrative to illustrate why your community is exceptional because standard practice will not receive credit.

The Ashland City Council recently approved the City of Ashland Bike Plan and Map. These documents will be used to implement bike lanes on selected streets and encourage construction of mulit-modal transporation via new trails. The City also was recommended a grant award to assist in paying for the the updates of both the Waterfront Development and Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans. These plans will use Authentic Ashland 2035 as guiding document to ensure the public has access to the waterfront through green transportation. The City has also applied for a Wisconsin Department of Transportation - Transportation Alternatives Grant to rebuild the Waterfront Trail, install bike lanes along STH 112, and design and engineering document for a Bay City Creek Trail. 

D. Document that your community has been recognized as a Green Tier Legacy Community.

The City of Ashland has been an active member of the Green Tier Legacy Communities since 2013.

J. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

In 2017, the City of Ashland was designated as a SolSmart Silver member. 

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required International Migratory Bird Day resolution.

B. Document and describe your event that incorporates the annual IMBD theme in some fashion. If the event has not yet occurred, please share your detailed plans. For information on the current year’s theme and event materials, please visit the International Migratory Bird Day website. To see what other Bird City communities have done in the past, please view some other profiles on our website.

The City of Ashland held its IMBD celebration during the annual Chequamegon Bay Birding and Nature Festival, May 19-21, 2017 in Ashland, WI. During the weekend-long celebration 186 species of birds were observed. This festival was attended by nearly 400 people and featured over 100 activities.

Joined Bird City: 2013

Population: 8,216

Incorporated: 1887

Area: 13.7 mi2

Community Website

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