Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Oconomowoc

Community Achievements

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.

Five years prior to the Wisconsin Legislature enacting a comprehensive planning law in 1999, which is set forth in Section 66.1001 of the Wisconsin Statutes, the City of Oconomowoc adopted their Comprehensive Plan. The city plan addresses all nine of the key elements identified by Smart Growth Legislation. Several components, including protecting wetlands, a commitment to preserving, protecting, and expanding the natural resources of the area, protecting groundwater recharge areas, working in cooperation with neighboring municipalities, county and State agencies, and implementing a systematic review of all appropriate ordinances including: Zoning, Subdivision, Sign, Parking, Landscaping, Floodplain, Wetland Ordinances, etc. to ensure consistency with the adopted Comprehensive Plan, assures that the City of Oconomowoc plans its growth with birds and other wildlife in mind. The City is careful to maintain the shoreline landscaping so it is appropriate for wildlife while it impedes erosion as well as landscaping which is beneficial to our ecosystem. Since this original adoption of the Oconomowoc Comprehensive Plan the city has amended and adopted a plan in 2010 that extends to the year 2030.

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)

In 1999, the City of Oconomowoc adopted their 30 year Comprehensive Plan to guide all land use activities until the year 2030. This extensive document ensures that planning occurs with bird habitat and open space in mind. The Park and Open Space Plan are intended to provide for areas where recreational needs can be met without undue disturbance of natural areas. Examples of areas like this in Oconomowoc are the pedestrian and bike path that runs from Roosevelt Park to Sawyer Road as well as the many lakes in and around the city. Oconomowoc also has very strict ordinances regarding the planting and maintenance of trees, especially in public areas. Ordinance 8A.08 PLANTING OF TREES AND SHRUBS states: "The Common Council hereby states its determination that the planting, care and protection of the trees within the City is desirable for the purposes of beauty, shade, comfort, noise abatement, air quality enhancement and economic betterment and hereby encourages all persons to assist in a program of tree planting, care and protection" as well as creating a welcoming environment for birds.

Several years ago, the Parks Department installed Purple Martin houses in two of the parks. They were all replaced with new houses in 2017. In 2015, the Parks Department worked cooperatively with the Oconomowoc High School to install approximately 20 Bluebird houses along the Lake Country Recreational Trail. The Parks Department established a cooperative agreement to monitor and maintain these houses. The Parks Department will continuously maintain the Bluebird houses for many years to come.

In 2015, the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department have planted shrubbery in the landscaping beds in the city’s downtown roundabout. Every year the Parks Department plants annuals in the city’s downtown roundabout and in flowerbeds lining the downtown. These annuals attract many birds. In 2016, new shrubs were planted in Veterans Memorial Park that will provide a nesting area for birds. The City built a new Community Center in 2013. The Parks Department continues to improve landscaping including planting new trees and in 2016 constructing perennial flower beds. These flower beds will provide seeds for the birds to eat and the flowers will provide nectar to attract insects that birds eat.

On average the City plants at least 100 trees annually to increase potential bird habitat as part of its urban forestry program. In 2016, the City Horticulturist designed a landscape plan for the lawn area between the Community Center and Lac La Belle. We have many wedding ceremonies and needed the area cleaned up to make it look nicer for this. Also, the new plantings will increase bird habitats and attract insects that will attract more birds to the area. We continue to add annuals to this area every year.  In 2017, the Village Green and the Library both had new landscaping put in.  The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department put in many new plantings that are bird friendly and inviting.

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

The City of Oconomowoc does not restrict natural or “wild” landscapes as long as they are maintained.

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.

On the Parks, Recreation and Forestry website, there is a listing of the worst invasive Wisconsin plants such as Reed Canary Grass. In the department office, they have brochures available to the public on Zebra Mussels, Buckthorn, and Garlic Mustard.

Parks staff removed buckthorn to improve the urban forest and replaced it with trees and shrubbery that is conducive to bird habitat in Bub Heritage Park and they continue to maintain this area.

Community Forest Management

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

The City of Oconomowoc continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in April, 1993. Oconomowoc is proud to say that they have over 6000 trees that the forestry department maintains, with an average of over 200 additional trees being planted every year. We take our Arbor Celebration to the city as we hold tree planting celebrations with our residents in parks. We also select a school each year to celebrate with. Students study Arbor Day and trees' importance leading up to an all-school celebration. At that celebration we share why trees are important, including that they are habitats for birds. We also donate a tree to be planted on the school grounds.

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.

Oconomowoc recognizes that cats can also pose a threat to the bird population. Scientists estimate that every year in the United States alone, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, and more than a billion small mammals, including rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. In 1997, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) launched the “Cats Indoors!” campaign for safer birds and cats and to educate cat owners, policy makers, and the general public that cats, wildlife, and people all benefit when cats are kept indoors, confined to an enclosure when outdoors, or trained to go outside on a harness and leash. The City of Oconomowoc has the “Cats, Birds, and You” brochure is on display and copies are available to the public at the Oconomowoc Community Center.

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

Too often birds are killed because they come in contact with glass. Oconomowoc's Bird City website has a link to the American Bird Conservancy's collisions program which has comprehensive information regarding why birds collide with glass, the most effective ways to prevent window strikes, what doesn’t work and what to do with a stunned bird. An informative brochure on preventing window strikes comes from the American Bird Conservancy. Oconomowoc also has information posted on their website about collisions with wind turbines and also shares information about the dangers of power lines and tall towers such as communication towers.

We recieved an email from a tutor and her middle school student with positive feedback on our City of Oconomowoc website.  They wanted to say thanks...the student was working on a project on birds and migration, she was doing research and she ended up on our department's bird city page on the Oconomowoc website (http://oconomowoc-wi.gov/602/Bird-City). They found some excellent info for her project there! They also gave us another good birding resource - "Young Birder's Backyard Guide" -- https://www.improvenet.com/a/the-young-birder-backyard-guide.  We have since added this to our page.  It has some great basic birding & ornithology info for kids and beginners.

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.

To help residents protect bird species in the area, as well as maintain a backyard habitat, Oconomowoc has included the following additional links on their website:

Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative

The National Wildlife Federation

Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Beyond the Birdfeeder: Creating a Bird-Friendly Yard with Native Wisconsin Plants by Mariette Nowak

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

The Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department also encourages residents and community groups, such as the Boy or Girl Scouts, to get involved in counting bird populations, tracking migratory patterns, and building bird houses to be put in various locations throughout the city.  Yearly, the Oconomowoc Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department promote the use of Community Garden plots through their partnership with Greener Oconomowoc. Due to a higher demand for garden plots the last few years, we continue to fill even the additional plots.  In addition, they partnered with the Oconomowoc High School Ecology Club to build, install, and monitor Eastern Bluebird houses. The purpose of the Oconomowoc High School Ecology Club is to study, monitor, and protect our local environment. Projects in the past have ranged from collecting weather data, to restoring lake shorelines, to electro-shocking fish in population studies, to banding osprey chicks, to landscaping with local developers, and reconstructing streams.

Energy & Sustainability

J. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Five years prior to the Wisconsin Legislature enacting a comprehensive planning law in 1999, which is set forth in Section 66.1001 of the Wisconsin Statutes, the City of Oconomowoc adopted their Comprehensive Plan. The city plan addresses all nine of the key elements identified by Smart Growth Legislation. Several components, including protecting wetlands, a commitment to preserving, protecting, and expanding the natural resources of the area, protecting groundwater recharge areas, working in cooperation with neighboring municipalities, county and State agencies, and implementing a systematic review of all appropriate ordinances including: Zoning, Subdivision, Sign, Parking, Landscaping, Floodplain, Wetland Ordinances, etc. to ensure consistency with the adopted Comprehensive Plan, assures that the City of Oconomowoc plans its growth with birds and other wildlife in mind. The City is careful to maintain the shoreline landscaping so it is appropriate for wildlife while it impedes erosion as well as landscaping which is beneficial to our ecosystem. Since this original adoption of the Oconomowoc Comprehensive Plan the city has amended and adopted a plan in 2010 that extends to the year 2030.

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 Oconomowoc's International Migratory Bird Day Celebration takes place the last Friday in April and includes celebrating the "Tree City USA" designation and Arbor Day. During this event they educate the public about migratory birds as well as native birds and their habits. They also educate attendees on how to eliminate or minimize threats to birds such as keeping cats indoors and window­strike prevention and provide handouts on these two topics. Other topics include the importance of planting native species of woody and herbaceous ornamentals in the landscapes of the city.

To celebrate IMDB in 2017 IMBD the City Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department held a coloring contest for local schools. We downloaded the coloring page from the IMDB webpage. We circulated the flyer around the city and on our Facebook Page (see photos). We had so many wonderful entries and were able to provide the winners with awesome prizes that were donated from two local stores that sell bird feed and equipment.

Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2012

Population: 15,712

Incorporated: 1875

Area: 12.2 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Tourism Page

Community Map