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)

The St. Croix Valley Bird Club (SCVBC) completed the following activities in 2018:

3-30-18: Foster Cemetery Survey for TPE: E-Bird checklist here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44098636

4-21-18: Foster Cemetery Survey for TPE. E-Bird checklist here: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44782333

Jim Higgins of SCVBC 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 37 Bluebirds, 45 Tree Swallows, and 26 House Wrens. He spent 40 minutes/week for 18 weeks for a total of 12 hours monitoring these houses. Also maintained 10 houses at High View Meadows. The boxes fledged 13 Bluebirds and 15 Tree Swallows. He spent 40 minutes/week for 18 weeks for a total of 12 hours monitoring these houses. 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 20 Bluebirds, 18 Tree Swallows and 25 Wrens. He spent 35 minutes/week for a total of 10+ hours of monitoring.

Jim Beix of SCVBC 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. 174 Eastern Bluebirds were fledged in St. Croix County and 151 Eastern Bluebirds were fledged in Pierce County. 

Mary Roen of SCVBC monitored 4 nest boxes at Sterling Ponds each week for 15 weeks, spending 4 hours doing this. 10 Bluebirds and 4 Tree Swallows fledged from these boxes.

Additional 2018 eBird checklists found online – all conducted within the city limits of River Falls:

3/19/18: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43779923 

3/21/18: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43841864 

4/17/18: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44668772 

4/21/18: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44795701 

5/5/18 Wings of Spring Bird Festival survey: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45413564 

5/10/18: https://ebird.org/atlaswi/view/checklist/S45517141 

8/5/18: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47665057

8/5/18: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47665036 

10/25/18: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49513891

5/27/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46383405

5/12/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45637424

5/10/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45637440

5/8/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45678284

5/2/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S45169016

4/27/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44985679

4/25/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44985140

4/12/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44497183

4/9/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44409274

3/30/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44084318

3/28/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S44084329

3/19/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43779132

3/14/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43653909

2/14/2018 https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42750493

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 two years ago. The City is proactive in the preservation of open space and park development. The City contains 327.61 acres of public park space and 275.82 acres of public conservancy, which, altogether, totals an impressive 13% of the City's area. Additional green space exists on school and campus properties, in cemeteries, and privately-owned facilities such as golf courses, for a total of 952.14 acres of institutional and green space, or over 20% of the City's total area. A Park and Open Space Plan meeting all Wisconsin DNR requirements is expected by 2020 that will provide a detailed inventory of all existing green, and guidance for future green space management, enhancement, and acquisition. Additionally, Shoreland Zoning regulations (Section 17.124) provide a development-free buffer around sensitive trout streams that retains vegetation and bird/fish habitat while enhancing water quality. 

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 late 2018, Dr. Jim Beix of the SCVBC presented the idea of constructing an Osprey Nest platform at the Wastewater Treatment Plant through the City's "POWERful Choices!" initiative, which is a community-wide sustainable energy project. This project was recommended by POWERful Choices! to the City's Municipal Utilities for construction, which is anticipated in 2019. 

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

On 11/7/2018, City employees participated in an annual volunteering effort to remove buckthorn along the Riverwalk Pathway on the Kinnickinnic River. 

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. 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. 2018 marks River Falls' 25th anniversary of continual affiliation with “Tree City USA”, which it looks forward to continuing in the future. 

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. 

4-27-18:  For Rocky Branch Elementary ECO day, The St. Croix Valley Bird Club provided afternoon bird activities for multiple K-5 classes. Jim Beix, Jim Higgins and John and Gladi Sippel, Mary Roen and Wendy Hill of SCVBC attended and set up stations.

5-23-18: Montessori School Green Day - SCVBC held bird activities for multiple Grade 1-5 classes, from 9 am-3 pm. There were 7 classes that averaged 21 students per class and 3-4 adults with each class. Members Mary Roen, Dave Fehringer, and Sarah Hall oversaw the activities.

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 10 species of birds at (frozen) Lake George, including the White Pathway, the pothole by the school bus garage, and below the City’s first dam at Glen Park.

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

The 8th Annual Wings of Spring bird festival was held on 5/5/2018, with 200 adults and children in attendance. Supported by other community environmental organizations and groups, SCVBC volunteer members use this educational opportunity to encourage an awareness of birds, habitat and conservation. Through displays, demonstrations and presentations, “Wings of Spring” provides a varied program including speakers, informational and hands-on activities, bird banding demonstrations and guided hikes. A new event this year included Fendrick & Peck, a husband wife folk music duo who sang nature-themed songs.  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).

In 2018, Jim Higgins of the SCVBC helped provide 14, 12-plant kits consisting of over 160 plants that were utilized in making pollinator gardens in and around River Falls through the St. Croix Wetlands Management District.  

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. 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.

On 4-28-18, the St. Croix Valley Bird Club held an outdoor program and hike – 9:00-11:00am at Mike Miller and Susan Goode’s 180-acre oak savanna/prairie property west of River Falls. It was a gorgeous day with 23 adults in attendance.

On 5-8-18, the River Falls Chamber of Commerce asked SCVBC to participate in a walk in River Falls with Tonette Walker, wife of Governor Scott Walker, to promote health and fitness, and to point out the beauty of the city of River Falls. Mary Roen of SCVBC joined in the well-attended walk. She spoke with Tonette about SCVBC and how River Falls is one of the first Bird Cities, and is now at the High Flyer level. Tonette listened and congratulated the club. Mary gave her one of the club's brochures.

On 10-9-18, Jim Higgins and Jim Beix presented a program about SCVBC, bird migration, bird feeding, landscaping for birds, dangers of windows to birds, birding, and Bluebird trails to a group of seniors at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in River Falls. About 40 adults attended.

On 11-10-18, Becky Brathal from Pheasants Forever gave a talk, “Pheasants Forever is on a Mission for Habitat” to 37 adults and one teen at River Falls Public Library, 1:00-3 pm.

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 2018, there were 41 check-outs of backpacks from the library.

On 1-13-18, Caitlin Smith of US F&W Service, presented “Managed Grazing is for the Birds” to 48 adults at the River Falls Public Library at 1:00-3 pm.

On 2-10-18, Abbey Krumrie presented a raptor program to an audience of 35 adults and 3 kids at the River Falls Public Library, 1:00-3 pm. She brought three raptors with her – an Eastern Screech Owl, a Peregrine Falcon, and a Red-tailed Hawk.

On 3-24-18, Pat Ready from Madison Audubon Society spoke at length about American Kestrels, and efforts to reverse their decline by putting up nesting boxes. 30 adults attended the program at the River Falls Public Library, 1:00-3:00 pm.

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. 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 2017, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab, River Falls Municipal Utilities was ranked No. 5 nationally with a 10% 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 5, 2018, the 8th Annual Wings of Spring bird festival was held in River Falls, with 200 adults and children in attendance. A new event in 2018 included Fendrick & Peck, a husband wife folk music duo who sang nature-themed songs. Wings of Spring 2019 was held on May 4th, 2019, following a similar format as in years past. Photos attached to this application include last year's schedule of events. Follow 2019 updates on the event web page