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. While this plan has been amended to stay current, the City is currently drafting an all new plan in 2022-2023, including an update to the 1995 Outdoor Recreation and Bike and Pedestrian Plans since much has changed including two recessions, a pandemic and some of the most rapid growth the City has seen so far. These updated plans are intended to continue to be in full compliant with the "Smart Growth" law including additional sustainaibility goals for resource management and land use. 

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)

This section reflects ongoing monitoring and upkeep of the nest boxes in the community conducted by Saint Croix Valley Bird Club (SCVBC) members during 2022. Survey data is below:

Mary Roen did a total of 16.5 hours of monitoring this season in three different areas of the City including - Sterling Ponds there was a total of 4 boxes with the observation of 15 Eastern Bluebirds fledged. DeSanctis Park there was a total of 5 boxes observed with 17 Eastern Bluebirds fledged. At Rocky Branch Elementary School 5 boxes were moniotered with a total of 6 Black - capped Chickadees fledged.

Jim Higgins spent 8.5 hours monitoring the Drewiske Preserve for total of 22 Eastern Bluebirds and 40 House Wrens fledging. For 9.5 hours in Highview Meadows counting 29 Eastern Bluebirds, 6 Tree Swallows and 4 House Wrens fledging. Kelly Creek Preerve 9.5 hours of monitoring time with 28 Eastern Bluebirds. 14 Tree Swallows, and 23 House Wrens fledging. Lastly observations for 8.5 hours total at the Farm there was 14 EAstern Bluebirds, 27 Tree swallows, 37 House Wrens fledging.

Polly Jauquet monitored 36 boxes for a total of 38 hours at the River Falls Golf Club observed 55 Easter Bluebirds, 10 Tree Swallows, 12 Chickadees, and 63 House Wrens fledged. In addition there was 11 boxes at the River Falls Industrial Park and Killkarney Hill Golf Course for a total of 7 hours observing 30 Eastern Bluebirds, 5 Tree Swallows, 11 House Wrens fledged. 

Mike Elling surveyed Foster Cemetary for a total of 18 hours and observed a total of 25 species. 

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 has maintained a 12 acre prairie restoration at DeSanctis Park (Regional City Park) and has incorporated native plantings along the White Pathway and several other neighborhood parks. The city continues the partnership with the Prarie Enthusiasts, a community group, who is passionate and dedicated to irradicating invasive species, such as Buckthorn and restoring native plantings. 

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 frequently posts informative information on their social media pages and website for residents and community members to protect the natural enviornment and save energy. The City has a dedicated Forester that coordinates the removal of dead trees affected by Emerald Ash Borer and offers an incentive program called Tree Power for residents to plant native trees to not only save energy but to maintain bird habitat. The City has also recently invested in hiring ScapeGoats, LLC to graze invasive Buckthorn along the Kinnickinnic Pathway showing residents there are sustainable ways for invasive species removal. 

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 enhances extensive prairie and oak savanna habitat on City property, particularly at the Foster Cemetery near the City's wastewater treatment plant, where much of the bird monitoring takes place.

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. Which has had consistent maintenance and monitoring since then.

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

The Prarie Enthusiasts spend 847.5 hours in 2022 ensuring the praries and savannas remain healthy, restoring many acres in various parts of the City. A full summary of all their work can be found here Prarire Enthusiasts 2022 Update.

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

The work of the Prarie Enthusiasts have consistently shown their support and passion for controling invasvie species. The City Public Works team and other various City employees participated in an annual volunteering effort to remove buckthorn along the Riverwalk Pathway on the Kinnickinnic River. 

City Public Works staff removes wild parsnip and buckthorn when encountered. Ash trees in the City are continually being replaced to stop the spread of Emerald Ash Borer disease. The City has a Community Preparedness Plan for proactive surveying of trees.

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.

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.                                                                        

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. 2022 marked the 29 years of continual affiliation with “Tree City USA”, which it looks forward to continuing in the future. 

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

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. 

The River Falls Municipal Utility has an efficiency rebate Tree Power program for the purchase of trees planted on private properties.

The City collaborated with local organizations for an Earth Day event in 2022 they donated over 500 tree saplings for planting.

The City donated $500 to tree planting effort at River Falls High School in 2022.

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The City has a Tree Owner's Manual to educate property owners on tree planting, care and maintenance.

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. 

The City creates periodic e-newsletters and postings providing educational announcements to ensuring the safety of cats. Advising owners to keeping cats indoors which protects our City’s bird population and 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. Informing them 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. 

SCVBC participated in an Earth Day event at Greenview Elementary School in Baldwin, WI. Jim H, Jim B, Mark Bergland and Mary Roen staffed the tables. Mark brought bird skins. The skins along with the electronic bird board and the bird migration game were a hit. Abbey Krumrie of River Valley Raptors gave a great talk with her Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Over 37 kids were in attendenace and really enjoyed the activities.

SCVBC donated craft supplies to the Mann Valley 4-H Club for project and other activities for birding and habitat preservation.

The City hired an enviornmental educator for 'Project Wild' program where they teach once a month to 2nd and 4th grade students for the school year, about climate change, enviornmental preservation and sustainability. 

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).

SCVBC members participated in the Hudson/Afton Christmas Bird Count by recording species observed at Lake George Downtown River Falls on January 1st, 2022 totaling 6 species of 776 bird sightings.

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

The annual Wings of Spring Bird Festival, meets this requirement. After the two year COVID pandemic interuption the Wings of Spring event was in full force with over 50 attendees, 30 being children, 36 bird species were observed. 

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). In the summer of 2022 the growing concerns for siginficant declines in native pollinator species the City officially created the Bee City Committee to facilitate the advocation for pollinator conservation, which has been maintained by various groups in the community but none officially highlighted in the City. With this effort the City officially became desginated as a Bee City on November 8, 2022 joining municipalities and college campuses across the country that have committed to improving their local landscapes for pollinators.

H. Document a substantial regular program that educates young people on any of the following topics: climate change, energy efficiency, green/bird-safe buildings, or environmental sustainability.

The River Falls Public Library hosted a monthly Sustainability Speaker Series to speak on native and pollinator friendly planting, climate impact on birds and their migration patterns. Speakers have included the County Extention Agent and a Nobel Laureate.

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.

The SCVBV offers many public volunteer and education opportunities to raise awareness of its bird assets including bird hikes, presentations and speaking engagements. Such as on 5-4-22: Members offered the community a hike at Glen Park and along the Kinnickinnic River. 33 species of birds observed. Six adults on the hike. 5-11-22: There was a hike along the Kinnickinnic River beginning at the trail head, about the 1400 block of River
Ridge Road in River Falls. 45 species of birds observed. Four adults on the hike. 5-21-22: Hike at SCVBC members Mike and Susan Miller’s property on Co Rd F, River Falls, WI. The property includes 80 acres of restored prairie, 20 acres of oak savanna and mature oak woods and 85 acres of mixed hardwood forest. 25 species of birds observed. 15 adults in attendance. 10-15-22: Tom Anderson, author and retired director of the Lee & Rose Nature Center, spoke to the club at the RF Public Library, our first program since right before Covid hit 2 ½ years ago. His program, “Anatomy of Bird Song” was well attended and greatly enjoyed by 40 adults. 11-19-22: Ben Douglas, self-made birder extraordinaire, gave an excellent presentation, “Backyard Birding During Covid” at RF Public Library. 25 adults attended. 

August 31,2022, the SCVBC hosted a Member Picnic at Glen Park Pavilion.42 people enjoyed a beautiful fall evening and a potluck supper discussing birding and opportunities to enhance the club activities in the future.

 

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 City planted trees and helped improve gardens for a Habitat for Humanity housing development. 

Energy & Sustainability

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

Since 2010 the City has been implementing the recomendations in the City wide audit of City buildings. 

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 the fall of 2016, River Falls was designated a Bronze level Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. In 2019, 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. Finally, the City is rewriting its Comprehensive Plan in 2022-2023 that will likely recommend additional improvements in walkability, traffic calming, bike-ped infrastructure, and green infrastructure. Additional recreational trails are also planned for mountain bikes, neighborhood walks, and disc golf.  

In 2021 the City had the Blue Bike program, providing free bikes for City circulation located near major City parks including Glen and Hoffman. 

City has a program for City Hall, Library and Police Station to encourage employees to walk or bike ride to work. 

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

On January 1, 2020, the City of River Falls became the first community in Wisconsin to power all municipal buildings with Renewable Energy. See page 2 of the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change Report for a photo of the event. 

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 (RFMU) was ranked in the top 10 for the past three years for green energy participation rate (https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/assets/pdfs/2019-archive-top10.20200925.pdf). 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. Finally, RFMU is installing Advanced Metering Infrastructure citywide so customers can gather data on their consumption and reduce their impact accordingly, while RFMU employees are able to respond to outages and problems more quickly, improving the resilience of the City's infrastructure. 

H. Describe your community’s efforts to educate residents about climate change.

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. The project site is found near Sterling Ponds Industrial Park. In 2020, the EPA ranked the City of River Falls as having one of the highest green energy participation rates in the country (12.5% participation). In 2022, River Falls continues to ranks 2nd nationwide for participation in green pricing programs.

The City supports local organizations such as Hope for Creation in their climate change education initiaves.

The City is hosts an annual Earth Day event.

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 St. Croix Valley Bird Club has relaunched their WMBD "Wings of Spring" event on Saturday, May 7, 2022. Due to the pandemic's impact on the local economy, medical system, and the City's budget, the event was pared down but still had a good turn out. Other City events and meetings are reforming into manageable in-person events with many virtual engagement opportunities as well. The event featured educational exhibits, activities, presentations, and bird counts in the heart of Downtown River Falls. The last robust event, in 2019, the 9th Annual Wings of Spring Bird Festival was held at River Falls City Hall and along the White Pathway. Approximately 200 people attended. 60 children were ‘banded,’ the highest number to date. 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 nearby Carpenter Nature Center's employees banded 17 individual birds (7 species).