Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Fond du Lac

City of Fond du Lac


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 involved the public and Plan Commission in updating this plan in 2019, and natural resources will continue to be a focus in the updated plan.  More specifically, the Ag, Natural & Cultural Resources chapter will acknowledge 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)

Volunteers counted the different species that were observed in three Fond du Lac locations at the 2019 World Migratory Bird Day.  While the weather was too cold for many birds to be seen at our largest site, Lakeside Park, 39 species were seen near a business park pond, and 33 were tabulated in the Greenway Arboretum.  The Lakeside Park location was still a success, as kids were introduced to the "Great Migratory Bird Game," led by a local nature enthusiast.  Anecdotally, it took most of the month of May for warblers to migrate north, but last spring was an amazing month for birding despite the cold and rain.  On a related note, pictures from the Marshland Birding Group are routinely added to the Fond du Lac BCW Facebook site.  Local enthusiasts followed the results from the 2019 Birding Bird Atlas, where 13 new species were covered.  Volunteers and organizers wrapped up Wisconsin's five-year breeding bird survey, including a Glossy Ibis pair in nearby Horicon Marsh.  The DNR has noted that there are four bald eagle nests in Fond du Lac County!

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.  A City project has been budgeted for early 2020--including a DNR Stewardship grant--to install a bike/pedestrian trail through the center of the Park, including planting new trees.  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.  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.  

BROOKSIDE 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 remains on track to be developed in 2020, remaining largely natural but with walking trails to bring parkgoers closer to its many acres of wetland.

The partnership continues with two Rotary clubs, UW-Fond du Lac, Marian University, and Gottfried Arboretum.  The dozen Noon Rotary trees planted in 2019 on a state highway boulevard are doing well, and the two local colleges are both pursuing Tree Campus USA status.  

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 will be 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.  Already in 2020, one local leader has tackled some buckthorn and honeysuckle!  

The Audubon Society removed buckthorn from the Lallier and Peebles areas on eight dates in October, 2019. 

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 Leadership Fond du Lac team worked 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, possibly a future birdwalk site.

The City worked 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 will not be mowed in 2020 in hopes of doing 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.  

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 program has been extended to a third year, 2020.    

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.).

Each year's Arbor Day celebration plants a tree in Lakeside Park, and involves a local elementary school class.  Each student receives educational material, helps plant the tree, and takes home a seedling for their own yard. 

The annual Conservation Station was held at Fond du Lac's Walleye Weekend, a summer event that brings tens of thousands of visitors each year.  In 2019, the City Forester gave a presentation on the important of urban trees and worked with event attendees to plant a tree in Lakeside Park.  This efforts was complemented by displays on backyard beehives, composting, organic gardening, water quality, flower gardens, and wastewater management. 

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 equipment in late 2019--a mini-excavator and brush mower attachment--that will allow it to complete needed ditch and pond maintenance more efficiently and effectively.  So for the first time in 2020, we plan 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 2019, 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.

Both John Redmond (Parks Superintendent, CTMI class of 2016) and Jordan Skiff (Director of Public Works, CTMI class of 2010) have graduated from CTMI, and both attended the "alumni" program in 2017.  In addition, Jordan has been an instructor at the three CTMI rotations held since he attended.  Jordan is the past chair of the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council, and in 2018 was appointed as the urban representative on the Wisconsin Council on Forestry (reappointed in 2019), both of which monitor the activities of CTMI.  The DNR is updating its Forest Action Plan this year, including categories of climate change, public and private forests, and community forestry.  One specific goal is to "promote sustainable forest management that balances timber production and wildlife habitat, including rare and endangered species."  All of these roles--CTMI, UFC, CoF--have been critical in promoting forestry throughout the state in the areas of water quality, advocacy, species diversity, public health, workforce development, and wood utilization.  

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.  This will provide data about the difference in cost, staffing, application cycles, effectiveness, and unforeseen effects of the different products.  The City remains committed to using the most responsible, cost-effective and safest products in maintaining its parks.  

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.

Fond du Lac Audubon offers a newsletter five times a year (, which periodically features information on new technology ("Become a Citizen Scientist with eBird"), Invasive & Aggressive Plants, preventing bird window collisions, and backyard bird counts (to be held Feb 14-17, 2020). 

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

For the second year in a row, John McDowell led a bike tour along the Fond du Lac Loop in 2018 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.  

Area artists and other downtown business owners proudly hung Bird City symbols in store windows and provided bird habitat education during WMBD.  In 2020, local artist Mel Kolstad will host an art reception featuring bird stamps.  

The Audubon Society is bringing in a speaker on 3/11/20 to share how to use technology to help time species arrivals and departures as well as locate local birding hot spots.  The best use of binoculars will also be discussed, as well as a tutorial on Merlin and eBird apps.  

A Cornell University webinar was attended by local birders on 11/14/19 on the decline of our bird population, as well as a video about David Sibley, creator of Sibley Bird Guides.  

The Audubon Society held a Christmas bird count on 12/16/19, celebrating 120 years, and gathering numbers and species information over a 15-mile radius.  

Local enthusiasts joined the nearby Horicon Marsh Bird Club for a presentation from a raptor biologist, discussing his work on endangered California Condor recovery.  This was held 9/19/19, and the annual Big Sit was held 10/12/19.  A week later, a bus tour through Horicon Marsh allowed the observation of the annual fall migration of waterbirds.  

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.

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.  Its inaugural meeting included two City Council members and two City department heads!  Planting 2,020 trees in 2020 is one of its top five goals, and a Public Works update to the group in September 2019 highlighted many of the energy-saving and nature-promoting activities the City is involved in.  

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 efficienty 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 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.  

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.

During the weekend of May 3 - 5, 2019, birdwalks were held at the Camelot pond Friday evening, at the Greenway Arboretum both early and mid-morning on Saturday, and in Lakeside Park on Saturday afternoon.  Once again, avid bikers and birders united for a bike tour around Fond du Lac, cruising past scenic natural areas.  Three talks were held at the Library in the weeks leading up to WMBD, with topics that included citizen scientists doing bird counts, using satellite imagery to investigate changes in bird habitat, and a Fond du Lac parks update.  Downtown retailers focused on the theme, "It's All for the Birds" for the day, the local hardware store ran a special on bird food, and two art galleries featured bird carvings, bird art, and a display entitled "Feather, Flight and Song."  And two nature enthusiasts ran the Great Migratory Bird Game in Lakeside Park, educating children on the hazards birds face while migrating each year.  Two of the the birdwalks included a "flyover" by a bald eagle.  

Plans for 2020 are coming together very well.  A speaker from Monarchs Unlimited will discuss "Pollinators in Your Garden for Birds and Butterflies," and the history and ecology of Horicon Marsh will be discussed.  Local birders will provide commentary for an excellent video, "E-Bird Essentials," from Cornell University's ornithology lab.  And an art reception will be held with local artist Mel Kolstad and her bird stamps.  Three popular birding sites will be walked again on May 1st and 2nd, including the Camelot Pond, Greenway Arboretum and Lakeside Park.  In addition, the new walking/snowshoe trail in Lakeside Park West will be the site of a walk.  With a Facebook page that's getting more "likes" each week, we hope for ever-increasing interest in these events!   Along with these specific goals, local advocates are hoping to raise birding interest in a more diverse audience, and to teach people to use technology (Merlin and eBird apps, etc.) to aid their birding activities.  

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 43,021

Incorporated: 1852

Area: 20.11 mi2

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