Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Fond du Lac

City of Fond du Lac

HIGH FLYER

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.

 The City of Fond du Lac has demonstrated that it has continued to comply with the state of Wisconsin’s “Smart Growth” law for land use and planning and resource management. Its “Comprehensive Plan 2010-2030” was adopted on 10/14/09.  The City's Community Development Department has updated this plan creating the “2040 Comprehensive Plan”. This plan was adoption by City Council on 1/27/21. Natural resources was again a focus in the updated plan.  More specifically, the Ag, Natural & Cultural Resources chapter acknowledged local efforts in community gardens, community-supported agriculture, native landscaping, and taking a proactive approach to floodplain mitigation.

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)

 Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “Safer at Home” orders from the State, no activities took place for us to celebrate 2020 WMBD in early May. Local organizers were able to obtain about 5 to 10 minutes of air time on a local radio station for an educational presenter and a local birder that highlighted some hotspots around the City.

On a related note, local organizers used Facebook to post web pictures from species that are in the area at the time of the post. The activities and pictures from the Marshland Birding Group are routinely added to the Fond du Lac BCW Facebook site. The four bald eagle nests in Fond du Lac County continue to be observed as active. In addition, an osprey nest platform was located just outside the City and garnered a lot of attention when the adults were feeding their very hungry offspring.

C. Provide evidence (e.g., official designation of natural areas, easements, etc.) that existing bird habitat within community limits has legal protection. (Exclusions: Leash laws; prohibitions against disturbing nests and wildlife; areas consisting primarily of mowed grass)

City Ordinance 488-5(N) specifies that interfering with animals and birds is not allowed in City Parks. All vehicle access is limited as well, further protecting the wildlife.

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

Plans for several City parks will protect or enhance bird habitat.

The McDermott Park master plan includes walking trails, landscaped areas and gathering spaces in this large City Park. The park is bordered by DeNeveu Cr., along which evergreen trees and vegetated creek banks provide wildlife habitat. The City completed, with help from a DNR Stewardship grant, a bike/pedestrian trail through the center of the Park in 2020. Tree planting will follow in 2021. The Friends of McDermott Park have begun a fundraising effort to add landscaped areas to complement the trail, and possibly to extend gravel walking trails to meander along the creek.  

Lakeside Park provides a large expanse of shoreline on the southern end of Lake Winnebago. In the winter months the wastewater treatment outfall provides excellent birding and is a favorite of local birders. Bald Eagles sit on the ice and in the trees surrounding the lake shore. The City planted a few more trees along the shoreline in 2020. While a group of local business leaders has been advocating for park projects that would affect green space and some trees with a small multi-purpose building, expanded parking lots, and a new amphitheater, local nature lovers are making sure the City Council considers the impact on natural beauty and wildlife habitat as they consider various proposals. Even if more development happens, organizers have pledged to plant trees, bushes and other landscaped areas to provide a beautiful, natural setting.  

Lakeside Park West is a large expanse of parkland almost completely undeveloped, west of the Fond du Lac River. A local business owner who donated funds for a new walking/snowshoe trail here also pledged even more money for a planned marshwalk/viewing platforms overlooking the Marsh. We hope that this makes the area more accessible for local hikers and birders, while not detracting from its scenic beauty. Being reminded that food sources, shelter and a less active location are important considerations in promoting bird habitat, we plan to seek grant funding to specifically improve the bird habitat along Lake Winnebago. We plan to complement the many mature trees there with native berry bushes like serviceberry and high bush cranberry, tending them so they don't crowd out other species. This will be ideal for smaller birds to shelter in. We hope to plant oak trees and white cedars so they're established when some existing box elder and black willows die off. A bird walk is planned for this park during the 2021 WMBD celebration.  

Brookfield Park—with DeNeveu Creek as its focal point—is another corridor for spring passerines moving north through the Fond du Lac area. This park is bordered by the creek and the backyards of bird watchers who feed the birds year-round. Warblers are commonly sighted on their way north.

The West Branch of the Fond du Lac River does not currently pass park land, but is bordered for a mile on the City’s west side—along both banks—by city land saved as open space and flood plain mitigation. This area is known by local birders looking for migrating passerines, particularly where Hickory Street crosses the river. Hundreds of Mallard Ducks have been found wintering in the small tributaries that feed this stretch of the river. In the summer Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons stand along its banks hunting for crayfish, frogs and minnows in the shallow waters. Belted Kingfishers patrol the area and find nesting areas in the protected habitat.

Cardinal Park had some minimal playground equipment installed in 2020. In 2021, walking trails will be developed to bring parkgoers closer to its many acres of wetland.

The Greenway Arboretum continues to see improvements for bird habitat. The prairie has a planned burn in 2021 as it has started to thrive and host deer, butterflies, and birds. Just 5 years ago, this land was barren.

A multi-county effort headed up by the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance has prepared a lake management plan for Lake Winnebago.  Subcommittees focused on half a dozen key areas, including wildlife habitat and controlling invasive species.  We look forward to seeing plans to come to fruition in these areas, as a healthier Lake Winnebago will improve the Fond du Lac community in these critical ways.  

The Living Well Coalition is watching to see how fruit trees and community gardens in Hamilton Park, Franklin Park, and the local YMCA start to produce, not only so these fresh foods can be made available to the community in these "food deserts," but also to be able to tell and show other interested parties what can come from these trees and food plots.   

Trees were planted in the spring of 2020 along downtown bike paths, part of the implementation of a master landscape plan for the Fond du Lac Bike Loop.  This 16-mile system of trails will boast more trees and landscaped areas in the future as the plan continues to be implemented.  

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.

Recent improvements in Lakeside Park West -- kayak launches, hiking/snowshoe trail and a future marshwalk -- will make these rustic areas more accessible to the public.  Local leaders periodically recruit other volunteers to learn more about, and to remove, garlic mustard and buckthorn in Lallier Park, Greenway Arboretum, along the Peebles Trail, and by the Ledgeview Pond. 

I. Document a recent project that created or restored bird habitat in your community. (Exclusions: Bird feeders and small-scale artificial nesting structures)

The widow of a local park enthusiast has begun work on a landscaped area along the water in Lakeside Park, scheduled to be completed in the spring.  Also, two kayak launches have been installed in the Park, making it easier for residents to quietly enjoy the water, get closer to waterfowl and to see land birds from a different perspective.  

A 2021 birdwalk site is possible following a Leadership Fond du Lac team working with City staff in 2019 to create a one-mile walking/snowshoe trail along Lake Winnebago and Supples Marsh in the pristine area of Lakeside Park West.

The City worked with the local Audubon chapter to install signs reminding people not to feed the ducks and geese that so often gather in Lake Winnebago just off of Lakeside Park.  This area was described as a "convention" of geese!  

Maggie Park, developed in 2018, has had walking trails completed and native trees planted, with fruit trees planned next to the trail this spring.  With McDermott Cr. winding through the park and its many acres remaining almost completely natural, this is a great site for nature lovers!  

Colwert-Edward Park, newly developed in 2016, has nature trails winding through it and new trees planted to buffer it from neighboring homes.

Parkwatch established a prairie planting area along DeNeveu Creek in the City's Lallier Park a few years ago.  The planting is mature prairie now and attracts more birds than the bluegrass that was there before.  The Goldfinches love the thistles!

Neighbors have worked with the City to create beautiful gardens along walking trails near Ledgeview Pond.  In 2018, they posted Bird City Wisconsin certificates and language reminding dog-walkers to leash their dogs to avoid disrupting birds enjoying the habitat.  

L. Show that your community has restored at least two acres of woodlands, wetlands, or prairie.

Efforts continue in establishing a two-acre oak savannah on a former disposal site at the Greenway Arboretum. The total site consists of 24 acres of natural habitat along the East Branch of the Fond du Lac River. Prairie grass has been established and plans are for a controlled burn in 2021. Donated funds will be used to plant trees, and Mother Nature has produced more than 20 oak seedlings on the site so far. These are fenced and fertilized by volunteers for protection, and are scattered throughout the 24-acre Greenway. Oaks are long-lived trees, and their acorns are an important food source for birds and other wildlife. Their size and semi-open canopies provide unique opportunities for birds to nest and feed. White oaks especially, like most of those growing in the Greenway, have very high insect diversity and leaf out just as hungry warblers and other migratory birds come to this area from their wintering grounds in the tropics. Efforts continue for the removal of buckthorn and brush clearing will happen once the buckthorn removal is complete.

M. Demonstrate that your community offers a program for private property owners who are interested in dealing with invasive plants that have significant negative impacts on bird habitat.

The City and local property owners continue to work with the DNR to treat phragmites in Supple Marsh and other sites in the region. The Greenway Arboretum is on the list but has yet to receive treatment.    

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

Local advocates continue to clear buckthorn and other invasive species from area parks and trails, especially the Greenway Arboretum, Peebles nature trail, Lallier Park, and is now looking to Lakeside Park West. 

R. Show how your community aids a local youth group (e.g., Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of USA, 4-H Club, etc.) or conservation group in bird conservation projects (e.g., bluebird trail, habitat restoration, Wood Duck nest boxes, etc.).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “Safer at Home” orders from the State, the typical annual events were not able to be held. 

U. Show that your community maximizes the value of right-of-way space (e.g., power lines, pipelines, etc.) by planting them with native grasses, shrubs, herbs, and other prairie/grassland plants.

The American Transmission Company continues to provide tree-planting grants to local communities, as well as direct funding to Fond du Lac specifically to replace trees that were required by federal law to be removed under high-voltage lines in Lakeside Park.  These trees are being replaced with low-growing landscaped areas, including many native plants.  The Park will focus even more on planting native species as more of this space becomes available.  

Community Forest Management

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

The City of Fond du Lac continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1988.

B. Implement a municipal moratorium on the trimming of trees and shrubs and the mowing of ditches, storm water retention basins, and other grasslands from May 15 to July 15 to prevent the destruction of active bird nests. (Exceptions: Invasive species control and public safety)

The City's Public Works Department bought a mini-excavator and brush mower attachment in late 2019 that will allow it to complete needed ditch and pond maintenance more efficiently and effectively. 2020 was the first year we were able to avoid this work during the May 15 to July 15 time period to avoid bird nests. This will also free up the seasonal employees who conduct this work to complete other duties.  

C. Document an ongoing community program to incorporate a significant number of native trees, native shrubs, native herbaceous plants, and/or cultivars of native species in public or large-scale private landscaping.

Planting native trees in its terraces is a win-win decision for Fond du Lac.  Native trees are already suited for the Wisconsin climate (although not necessarily for growing alongside a street), and increasing diversity makes the urban forest more resilient against future pests or diseases, similar to loss of so much tree canopy due to the Emerald Ash Borer.  In spring and fall plantings in 2020, about 50% of the terrace trees planted by the City were native.  Interestingly, as tree advocates point out the benefits of trees in both the adaptation and mitigation impacts of climate change, we continue to diversify our urban forest.  Not only will this help keep a healthy urban canopy in case more threats like EAB emerge, but also may survive better if/when temperature and precipitation increases, or extreme storms become more common.  

E. Show that your forester, a member of your tree board, or another person currently responsible for managing your community’s trees has completed the Wisconsin DNR’s Wisconsin Tree Management Institute.

John Redmond, Parks & Forestry Superintendent, graduated from CTMI in 2016, and attended the "alumni" program in 2017.

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.

The City has an ordinance (216-16, 216-17, and 216-18) prohibiting dogs and cats running at large, and requiring their owners to restrain them. The local chapter of the Audubon Society has been distributing a pamphlet entitled “Cats, Birds and You” at their public meetings and multiple community events where they set up their booth. The Humane Society distributes a locally-produced brochure to all cat owners (based on information from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) that encourages them to keep their cats indoors.

C. Show that your municipality practices Integrated Pest Management, using natural pest control and the best available science to minimize pesticide and herbicide use.

A City Council-led desire to reduce the use of glyphosate in City parks has led to a pilot program in 2020, where the Parks crew will use a manmade, non-glyphosate product in one park and an organic product in another park for the year. The results from the 2020 pilot program are being evaluated. The City remains committed to using the most responsible, cost-effective and safest products in maintaining its parks. 

A local volunteer stepped forward and used his weed trimmer to keep the trails at the Greenway Arboretum trimmed and eliminated the need to use an herbicide.

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 Fond du Lac Audubon Society offers events and provides a variety of educational information. 

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

Back for 2021, John McDowell will lead a bike tour along the Fond du Lac Loop in during WMBD, pointing out the beauty of nature, observing many areas of bird habitat, and biking past some feathered friends!

The City and Audubon Society placed a sign along Lake Winnebago in Lakeside Park, reminding parkgoers not to feed the waterfowl.  

Shelly Culea will be taping her presentation on planting pollinators and how those plants help to provide great habitat for birds. This will be played on local radio station KFIZ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another speaker, Bill Volkert, will record a discussion on birds in the Northern Kettle Moraine that will also air on KFIZ.

Sue Hoehnen from Ubuntu Art Space will be hosting an artist’s reception from 4 to 7 p.m. on April 29. Mel Kolstad will contribute to the show as well as other bird artists that Sue is familiar with in the area. The reception will be at Ubuntu.

G. Provide a link to your community’s Bird City Wisconsin webpage, which must be visible from the main page of your municipal website (it may be located at the first level of a drop down menu on the main page but cannot be any less visible) OR demonstrate that your Bird City effort has a significant social media presence.

https://www.fdl.wi.gov/departments.iml?DeptID=21&DeptPage=182

I. Show that your municipality promotes and supports a bird club or other environmentally/ecologically-minded club. (Exclusions: Garden clubs, unless you demonstrate a strong focus on native plants)

Sustain Fond du Lac is a recently-formed group of sustainability-minded citizens and included participation by City Council members and City department heads. The COVID-19 pandemic altered plans in 2020 but the group was still able to plant about 1,700 trees in 2020!

L. Show that your community works with traditionally underserved communities to increase their access to natural areas, environmental education, birding resources, and local environmental experts.

The Hamilton area in Fond du Lac contains a high percentage of low-income housing, and has experienced significant problems with vandalism in the past.  A neighborhood organization meets with Community Development and the Police Department regularly to improve conditions.  Hamilton Park is one of the areas where fruit trees were planted in 2018 to provide fresh fruit for park-goers and to improve the beauty and appeal of the neighborhood.  

Energy & Sustainability

A. Document an energy audit for a municipal building and show that your community is working to implement its recommendations.

Alliant Energy completed an energy audit of all city-owned occupied buildings in 2012, and several projects have been researched more fully and implemented since then.  LED lights have been installed in the City Garage, in the City's three fire station bays, at the wastewater plant's exterior, Senior Center, and in various police department locations.  Energy efficient fluorescent lights have been installed in the Municipal Service Center office areas, and are being installed at the Park shop as funds allow.  Significant energy has been saved in Fond du Lac's water plants by installing variable frequency drives.  A state-of-the-art boiler has been installed at the Senior Center.  In 2018, the Fire Dept. installed new energy-efficient HVAC equipment.  A Bluestem Energy Solutions audit showed four City facilities that may be good candidates for solar panels, which may be pursued once planned roofing projects are completed in the next few years.  Alliant Energy has selected Fond du Lac as the Wisconsin community it will partner with to promote sustainable ideas like community solar, smart streetlight poles, electric vehicle charging stations, and a bike share program.  

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 City completed a bike/pedestrian plan in 2013, and has implemented projects to live out this plan every year since. A five-year update of that plan was approved by the City Council in 2018, with completed projects recognized and new projects identified. This update included a Complete Streets Policy, unanimously approved by the City Council. Key segments of a 16-mile bike Loop have been completed, including new trails in McDermott Park, Lakeside Park, along Pioneer Rd., and in the Camelot business park. Wayfinding signage has been installed, improved ramps have been poured, and a critical street crossing now has a rapid rectangular flashing beacon (RRFB) to help bicyclists and pedestrians cross safely. The County included bike lanes in resurfacing a bridge over I-41 and on a long segment of Pioneer Rd. that serves a middle school. Leadership Fond du Lac teams have sponsored mileage signs for the trail, and a local Boy Scout planted trees alongside it as an Eagle Scout project. The first two legs of a three-year project was completed in 2018, as Fond du Lac Ave. and Hwy V reconstruction projects included a multi-use trail, which will eventually connect the Fairgrounds and several residential areas with Theisen Middle School. Other key projects planned in the next several years (Military Rd., Pioneer Rd. at Hwy 23, Hwy 23 reconstruction on the east side of the City, etc.) all include bike/pedestrian facilities. The City and County are partnering with East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to conduct bike/ped counts on key trails from 2019 - 2021, with the goal of increasing trail usage by 10% over that time. The Friends of the Fond du Lac Loop have been instrumental in offering feedback about needed projects, presenting information and advocacy to service organizations, and being champions for bike/ped efforts in the community.

F. Demonstrate that your community participates in a community solar program or that a municipal building receives a significant percentage of its electricity from renewable energy.

In 2013, a bio-gas engine was installed at Fond du Lac's Wastewater Treatment & Resource Recovery Facility (WTRRF).  The methane and other gases that are generated by its wastewater treatment processes are cleaned and converted to electricity, providing approximately 40% of the plant's electrical needs.  Staff have improved their ability to accept high-strength waste from area industries, providing a less expensive way to get rid of this unique waste and leading to high bio-gas generation for the plant's needs. The wastewater plant is in discussion with Alliant Energy about selling the rest of its biogas into the grid.  

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD)

A. This community's municipal body passed the required World 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 World 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 COVID-19 pandemic cancelled activities for 2020. For 2021, five events will be held on April 30 and May 1, including a late afternoon event near a large pond looking for waterfowl, woodcocks, song birds and bats at dusk. Other walking events will be in the Greenway Arboretum, Lakeside Park, Lakeside Park West (new location), and a bike ride to various birding hotspots.

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 43,021

Incorporated: 1852

Area: 20.11 mi2

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