Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of River Falls

City of River Falls


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’ 2000 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)

The St. Croix Valley Bird Club completed the following activities in the spring/summer of 2017:

SCVBC member Ed Heit counted the following nine species of birds at Lake George, White Pathway, and Lake Louise, all within the River Falls city limits during the Afton/Hudson Christmas Bird Count: Tundra Swan – 8 ,White-breasted Nuthatch - 1, Dark-eyed Junco - 2, Canada Goose - 250, Common Merganser - 25, Mallard - 75, Rock Dove - 14, Black-capped Chickadee- 4, Northern Cardinal - 2

Jim Higgins maintained the following bluebird trails:10 houses at High View Meadows. The boxes fledged 11 bluebirds, 34 Tree Swallows and 8 Black-capped Chickadees. He spent 40 minutes/week for 18 weeks for a total of 12 hours monitoring these houses.

Jim Higgins maintained the following bluebird trails:15 houses at Kelly Creek Preserve, a native prairie and oak savanna restoration area managed by Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. The boxes fledged 37 bluebirds, 33 Tree Swallows, and 42 House Wrens. He spent 40 minutes/week for 18 weeks for a total of 12 hours monitoring these houses.

Jim Beix maintained a bluebird trail of 35 nest boxes at River Falls Golf Course, 10 at Kinnickinnic State Park, 4 at Kilkarney Golf Course, and 7 at Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park.

Mary Roen monitored 4 nest boxes at Sterling Ponds with 17 Bluebirds and 1 Tree Swallow fledged.

Mary Roen, Wendy Hill, Cathy Olyphant, Jim Beix, Ed Heit and Larry Persico all conducted surveys in Pierce and St. Croix Counties for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.

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

The City of River Falls Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 8, guides us in natural resource management and conservation and was documented in our previous application submitted last year. The City is proactive in the preservation of open space and park development. In the last decade, the City added 89 acres of conservation area and currently has approximately 285 acres of conservation area within our boundaries. This is in addition to 200 acres of dedicated parkland that also serves as bird habitat.

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. 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 City works closely with the St. Croix Valley Bird Club in promoting activities and enlarging habitat. During the spring and summer of 2017, volunteers spent 12-14 hours coordinating the distribution of Monarch kits (14-16 plants per kit) through SCVBC’s partnership with St. Croix Wetlands Management District.

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 a 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.                                                                         

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.

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. River Falls proudly looks forward to their continued affiliation with “Tree City USA.” 

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.

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. 

The SCVBC conducted the following activities for school-aged children in 2017: 

John and Gladi Sippel, Jim Beix, Wendy Hill, and Jim Higgins presented educational activities at Rocky Branch Elementary School's ECO Day on April 28, 2017.

Mary Roen, Lynda Meyers, and Wendy Hill preseneted bird-related activities at Montessori School Green Day on May 8, 2017. 

Mary Roen gave a bluebird program to a class of 24 first graders at Rocky Branch Elementary on June 1, 2017.

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).

Ed Heit counted the following nine species of birdswithin the River Falls city limits during the Afton/Hudson Christmas Bird Count - Northern Cardinal (2), Black-capped Chickadee (4), Rock Dove (14), Mallard (75), Common Mergaser (25), Canada Coose (250), Dark-eyed Junco (2), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), Tundra Sawn (8).

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.

Kyle Daly presented “Timberdoodles (aka: American Woodcocks) and Where to Find Them” to 36 people at the River Falls Public Library on April 1, 2017.
Bob Dunlap (AKA “Birdman Bob”) presented “A Millenial’s Guide to Birding” to 46 people, 3 of them children, at the River Falls Library on February 11, 2017.
The River Falls Public Library owns 5 “birding backpacks” that contain a pair of binoculars, a field guide appropriate to children, and a checklist. In 2017,there were 46 check-outs of backpacks from the library.

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.

The City completed its first bicycle and pedestrian plan in 1995. Many of the recommendations in that 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 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.

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 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, River Falls Municipal Utilities was ranked No. 9 nationally in customer participation 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.

The City of River Falls celebrated its 7th annual "Wings of Spring" International Migratory Bird Day on May 6, 2017 at River Falls City Hall and the White Pathway on the Kinnickinnic River from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. An “Early Bird” bird hike at 8:30 a.m. was well attended. Attendance was 150 with approximately 50/50 adults and children. The event was sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Bird Club.

Joined Bird City: 2010

Population: 15,000

Incorporated: 1875

Area: 6.6 mi2

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