Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of River Falls

City of River Falls

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 River Falls’ 2005 Comprehensive Plan is in full compliance with the “Smart Growth” law for land use planning and specifically includes a Natural Resources chapter that addresses resource protection to minimize habitat loss related land development. 

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)

SCVBC member Jim Higgins maintained bluebird trails of 15 houses at Kelly Creek Preserve, a native prairie and oak savanna restoration area managed by Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. The boxes fledged 47 Bluebirds, 29 Tree Swallows, and 3 House Wrens. He spent 45 minutes/week for 14 weeks for a total of 10.5 hours monitoring these houses. He also maintained 10 houses at Highview Meadows Park. The boxes fledged 13 Bluebirds and 12 Tree Swallows and 6 Wrens. He spent 40 minutes/week for 14 weeks for a total of 9.5 hours monitoring these houses. He also maintained 10 houses at Drewiske Preserve, a native prairie area on the Kinnickinnic River, managed by the Kinnikinnic River Land Trust. The houses fledged 22 Bluebirds, 22 Tree Swallows and 32 Wrens. He spent 40 minutes/week for a total of 9.5 hours of monitoring.

SCVBC member Mary Roen monitored 4 nest boxes at Sterling Ponds each week for 17 weeks, spending 4.5 hours doing this. Nine Bluebirds fledged from these boxes.

SCVBC member Jim Beix maintained bluebird trails at: River Falls Golf Course where 37 Eastern Bluebirds were fledgedthe pump house on East Division where 8 Bluebirds fledgedKilkarney Golf Course where 9 bluebirds fledgedWhitetail Ridge Corporate Park where 9 bluebirds fledged

Total Eastern Bluebird fledglings inside the River Falls city limits = 63. Total fledged in St. Croix County = 74, and 95 were fledged in Pierce County. Sadly, the Black Flies (also known as Buffalo Gnats) killed many hatchlings while in the nest in both counties.

Mark Ritzinger installed three nest boxes at the River Falls Hospital campus – they fledged 10 bluebirds out of 10 eggs and 6 tree swallows out of 10 eggs.

3-26-19: Mike Elling surveyed Foster Cemetery. He observed eight species of birds.

4-20-19: Mike Elling surveyed Foster Cemetery. He observed 10 species of birds.

5-14-19: Mike Elling surveyed Foster Cemetery. He observed 16 species of birds.

6-30-19: Mike Elling surveyed Foster Cemetery. He observed 3 species of birds

11-16-19: Mike Elling surveyed Foster Cemetery. No birds were observed.

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

The City of River Falls has an ordinance to allow for Managed Natural Landscaping (Section 8.40.60 of the municipal code). The City encourages the use of native plants and has demonstrated this support at City Hall through the use of infiltration basins and native prairie plants. In 2010, the building received certification as a LEED Silver building by the “US Green Building Council.” In addition, the City maintains a 12 acre prairie restoration at DeSanctis Park (Regional City Park) and has incorporated native plantings along the White Pathway and several neighborhood parks. 

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.

The St. Croix Valley Prairie Enthusiasts actively manage and enhance extensive prairie and oak savanna habitat on City property, particularly at the Foster Cemetery near the City's wastewater treatment plant. 

The City works closely with the St. Croix Valley Bird Club (SCVBC) in promoting activities and enlarging habitat. In May 2019, following a recommendation by the Bird Club, the River Falls Municipal Utility installed an osprey platform at the City's Wastewater Treatment Plant. 

On November 5, 2019, the Green Team from the City of River Falls researched where and how to place the Barred Owl box that SCVBC member Jim Higgins donated to them. They installed it at Foster Cemetery.

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

On 11/6/2019, City employees participated in an annual volunteering effort to remove buckthorn along the Riverwalk Pathway on the Kinnickinnic River. 

In November, 2019, the City passed an updated Dutch Elm Disease ordinance and has an Urban Forestry program and maintains trees planted on public lands and street right-of-way.

The City Urban Forestry program actively educates and responds to the prevention of Emeral Ash Borer disease spread. 

P. Demonstrate the implementation of a program to preserve Chimney Swift nesting and roosting sites (preferred) and/or to construct Chimney Swift towers.

What began as an Eagle Scout project transitioned to a priority for the St. Croix Valley Bird Club to look after and preserve the Chimney Swift population by offering them a reinforced tower at Highview Meadows Park. Due to lack of topographic barriers and landscaping, this site will require the club to monitor the tower from time to time to ensure it stands.

S. Demonstrate how a public golf course is managed to benefit birds.

In spring of 2014, Jim Beix, President of the St. Croix Valley Bird Club, communicated with Mr. Hanson, owner of the River Falls Golf Course regarding the implementation of Bluebird boxes within the course. Mr. Hanson was eager to have the St. Croix Valley Bird Club take over the monitoring of numerous nest boxes on his golf course. Jim reported that there were many wood nest boxes throughout the course, some needing extensive repair or replacement. Many of the boxes were poorly situated, located in an environment of thick vegetation more favorable to wrens and chickadees. It was identified that some of the boxes needed to be relocated to open areas more ideal for bluebird habitat. Jim spent several months repairing boxes and building new boxes to replace those in too rough of shape to repair. He also identified areas throughout the golf course that would be favorable for bluebirds, and collaborated with the Lead Groundskeeper of the golf course in the new placement of the nest boxes. Jim continues to actively monitors 35 nest boxes at this site as documented in criterion 1 B.                                                                        

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.

In 2013, the City received grant assistance from the FHWA Highway Safety Improvement Program to implement a pedestrian crosswalk enhancement project to improve Cascade Avenue near UW-River Falls. The project included roundabouts and a center boulevard featuring native grasses and other shrubs. The project received the 2013 Minnesota Chapter APWA Project of the Year Award as it transformed an outdated, unattractive, and dangerous roadway into an aesthetically stunning gateway to the City. Phase II of this street in anticipated to be constructed in the next decade with a similar configuration. 

Community Forest Management

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

The City of River Falls continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1993. 2019 marks 26 years of continual affiliation with “Tree City USA”, which it looks forward to continuing in the future. https://www.rfmu.org/243/Urban-Forestry 

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.

The City's Urban Forestry program has a list of approved boulevard trees which are also used to guide private development landscaping plans. 

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The City of River Falls is a member of the International Society of Arborculture.

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 of River Falls Police Department employs an animal control officer who enforces the Domestic Animal Ordinance, Section 6.04 (Dogs and Other Domestic Animals) of the City’s municipal code. Outdoor cats that are not under control of their owner are subject to being picked up and transported to the Pierce County Humane Society. Owners are subject to a fine up to $72.00 per offense. Feral cats are live trapped and taken to the Humane Society for evaluation. 

City ordinance prohibits all pets from "running at large" in Section 6.04.060 of the City's municipal code, which is defined as not being leashed or under control by its owner when not on the owner's property. The City's communications department included the following information in the Spring 2018 Newsletter, which is distributed to every household in the City: City ordinance does not allow household pets, including cats, to “run at large.” In addition to ensuring the safety of your cat, keeping it indoors protects our City’s bird population and our designation as a Bird City. Since we are located near the Mississippi River, one of North America’s primary migratory flyways, it is important that we are kind to our bird population. Did you know that cats kill over 2.4 billion birds per year in the United States, second only to habitat loss? (Source: American Bird Conservancy).

Public Education

A. Demonstrate that schools in your community participate in a nationally-recognized environmental education program (e.g., Flying WILD, Audubon Adventures) or that your community organizes its own substantial education and outreach program for young people. 

4-26-19: Rocky Branch Elementary School Eco Day. SCVBC members Mary Roen, Jim Beix, Jim Higgins, Mike Elling, and John Sippel & Gladi Sippel helped with this annual educational day for Junior Kindergarten, Kindergarten and First Grade. The educational stations included learning Bird ID, building an Eagle nest and taking a bird hike. Including SCVBC members there were 12 adults and 110 kids present.

5-15-19: River Falls Public Montessori Green Day. Perfect weather for the entire school to be outside. 44 students in Children’s House (4k-K), 93 students in Lower Elementary (1st-3rd grade) and 63 students in Upper Elementary (4th-6th grade.) SCVBC members Mike Elling, Jim Beix, Sarah Hall and Dave Fehringer volunteered at this annual event.

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).

1-1-18: Hudson/Afton Christmas Bird Count. SCVBC member Ed Heit counted seven species of birds at Lake George and Lake Louise, both with open water.

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

5-4-19: 9th Annual Wings of Spring Bird Festival was held at River Falls City Hall and along the White Pathway. The weather was perfect- 70 degrees, sunny, and no wind. Silent Auction proceeds were $472.50. Approximately 200 people attended. 60 children were ‘banded’, the highest number to date. New this year: Mei Mei’s Cookies sold coffee, cookies, and lemonade. 75 reusable shopping bags with SCVBC’s logo on them were given away. 47 species of birds were observed over the course of the event. The Carpenter Nature Center crew banded 17 individual birds (7 species). Event schedule and page found at http://www.scvbirdclub.com/imbd

F. Demonstrate that your community understands the critical ecological role of pollinators by documenting your Bee City USA status or by describing another substantial effort to promote pollinator health (for ideas visit the Xerxes Society and the Pollinator Partnership).

Since 2016, River Falls has been a member of Monarch City USA as one of 5 communities in Wisconsin: https://www.riverfallsjournal.com/news/4009003-got-milkweed-river-falls-joins-effort-boost-monarchs

In 2018, following several inquiries about beekeeping within City limits, the City of River Falls created a fact sheet and registration form that assists City residents in applying urban beekeeping best practices. This fact sheet was produced in collaboration with the St. Croix Valley Beekeepers Association (SCVBA) and is found at: http://www.rfcity.org/DocumentCenter/View/3270/Beekeeping-Info-Sheet?bidId=

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)

Since 2007, the City's Municipal Utility has lead the POWERful Choices! Initiative, a community-lead project to promote a sustainability and conservation-minded ethic in the City. Since 2007 the program has saved: 33.8 million kilowatt hours, $2.7 million on customer electric bills, and $2.3 million reduction of wholesale purchased power costs, and over $1.3 million in incentives from Focus on Energy has been returned to River Falls customers. In 2019, the Municipal Utility was ranked #3 nationally inn annual green power participation as a percent of all customers, up from #5 in 2018. The project site is found at http://www.rfmu.org/657/POWERful-Choices-Initiative

K. Demonstrate that your community actively raises awareness of its bird assets. Examples include placing a remote web camera on a nest platform, offering bird watching field trips, or creating a significant educational resource on your community's bird life.

1-19-19: Ben Johnston from the Wisconsin Bat Program spoke at the River Falls Public Library about Wisconsin’s seven species of bats, and what’s involved in being a volunteer surveyor doing acoustic surveys of bats. 50 people in attendance – 49 adults, 1 young teen. 

2-2-19: Bridget Olson, Project Leader of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in New Richmond, Wisconsin, spoke about Marbled Godwits, River Falls Public Library. 29 people in attendance – 27 adults, 2 elementary age kids.

3-2-19: Ben Douglas, self-taught birder, spoke at the River Falls Public Library about his 2018 “Big Year” spent birding in all 73 Minnesota’s State Parks and Recreation Areas. 41 people in attendance, all adults.

3-19-19: SCVBC member Cathy Olyphant gave a lunchtime program about SCVBC, its mission, and RF’s Bird City status to the local Tuesday Club at the West Wind Supper Club. Approximately 50 people were in attendance. She included the Osprey platform in her talk.

4-1-19: SCVBC member Jim Higgins spoke to Mann Valley 4-H Club about birds and habitat requirements. 20 kids and 5 adults were in attendance.

4-6-19: Siah St. Clair, chair of the Red-headed Woodpecker Recovery Project, Author, Photographer, and Retired Director of SpringBrook Nature Center in Fridley, Minn. gave a talk at the River Falls Public Library about Audubon Minneapolis’ research and recovery efforts on behalf of Red-headed Woodpeckers. 55 people in attendance – 54 adults, one teen.

10-26-19: Jonathan Poppele, naturalist, author and educator, who serves as the Minnesota coordinator for Bird Language Leaders, and who is also the founder and director of the Minnesota Wildlife Tracking Project, gave a talk, “Bird Language, Learning the Language of Nature”, at the River Falls Public Library from 1:00-3pm – 41 adults, and 1 teen attended.

11-16-19: Joanna Eckles, Curator of Birds at The Raptor Center, gave a program, “Birding for Life”, at the River Falls Public Library – 39 adults attended.

December 2019: SCVBC members provided information to the River Falls Public Library about bird strike prevention decals, ultimately leading to the purchase of enough decals to prevent strikes on many of their windows.

Calendar year 2019: The River Falls Public Library owns 5 "birding backpacks" that we helped them acquire in 2014. In the 12 months of 2019 the backpacks were checked out 43 times from the Library, of which many were renewed several times. These contain a pair of binoculars, a field guide appropriate to children, and a checklist.

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.

In early 2020, approval of an affordable housing project includes the addition of River Falls' first bus stop shelter. While our City of 15,000 has no existing bus system, it may be utilized in the future by various ride share or taxi services. The City also obtained a grant for a new taxi minivan as part of its own taxi service. While transit is not exceptional in many Wisconsin Cities, it is uncommon in smaller, rural communities, and River Falls is too far from the Twin Cities to be part of a greater transit network as this time. The City completed its first bicycle and pedestrian plan in 1995. In 2018, the City applied for and received a Transportation Alternatives Program grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in the amount of $48,000 to write a new bicycle and pedestrian plan in the next few years. Many of the recommendations in the 1995 plan have been implemented. Most recently, the City completed two trail projects in 2017. One was a reconstruction project for a 700-foot section of Lake George Trail that connects Family Fresh (a grocery store) to Walnut Street. The other was a 1,500-foot trail extension that connects Heritage Park at Maple Street north to Division Street. In 2016, the City established a free bike-sharing system call Blue Bikes where there are five designated bike racks throughout the City. Each rack has 4-6 blue bikes of various sizes and styles along with a permanently affixed fix-it station. In the fall of 2016, River Falls was designated a Bronze level Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. In 2018, the City wrapped up its Kinni Corridor Plan, which calls for additional bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Downtown River Falls and along the Kinnickinnic River, which runs through the heart of the community. 

C. Document that a municipal building is LEED certified (silver or higher).

The River Falls City Hall is the first in Wisconsin to be LEED Silver Certified. Sustainable features integrated in the design include: 70% of construction waste, a total of 55 tons, was diverted from the landfill by recycling; 4,003 tons (91%) of an existing building on the site and street demolition waste was recycled or re-used; high-efficiency boilers and chillers, a building automation system, and increased insulation should result in the building using 34% less energy than code requires; low-flow faucets and toilets use 20% less water than code and will save approximately 107,000 gallons of water annually; water-efficient landscaping, including native plants and prairie grasses, will reduce water needed for irrigation and protect the Kinnickinnic River, the Class 1 Trout Stream that runs through the city and is adjacent to city hall; the city will purchase 50,300 kWh, or 35% of its annual energy consumption from renewable sources; 22.8% of construction materials (by cost) contain pre-consumer and/or post-consumer recycled content; 26% of construction materials (by cost) were manufactured within 500 miles of the construction site, reducing energy consumption required to deliver the products; 75% of the wood used in the building came from sustainably grown forests; and building finishes, such as carpet and paint, are no-VOC or low-VOC (volatile organic compound) materials.

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.

River Falls is a national renewable energy leader. In late 2019, the City announced to power all municipal facilities with renewable energy. In 2019, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab, River Falls Municipal Utilities was ranked No. 3 nationally with a 11.67% customer participation rate in "green power" programs. In addition, River Falls is one of two communities chosen to pilot a strategic community solar garden initiative by WPPI Energy. Customers can subscribe for a share of the solar production and in turn receive a credit on their monthly electric bill. The community solar array is utilized by subscribing local residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations.

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.

On May 4, 2019, the 8th Annual Wings of Spring bird festival was held in River Falls, with approximately 200 adults and children in attendance. 60 children were ‘banded’, the highest number to date. New this year includes Mei Mei’s Cookies sold coffee, cookies, and lemonade. 75 reusable shopping bags with SCVBC’s logo on them were given away. 47 species of birds were observed over the course of the event. The Carpenter Nature Center crew banded 17 individual birds (7 species). Wings of Spring 2020 will be held on May 2nd, 2020, following a similar format as in years past. Photos attached to this application include last year's schedule of events. Follow 2020 updates on the event web page.