Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Whitewater

City of Whitewater

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 Whitewater adopted a comprehensive plan in 2010 that incorporates principles from Wisconsin’s “Smart Growth” law regarding land use planning and natural resource management and has been in compliance with that plan since. Specifically, Chapter 7 of the plan addresses working environmental corridors, smart growth areas and opportunities for redevelopment.  This is ongoing in 2018 in the City of Whitewater. This is ongoing in 2019 and 2020.

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

An ad hoc committee, the Urban Forestry Commission, which includes community members, was formed in December 2015 to create a butterfly/hummingbird garden in the Clay Street Nature Park. This community-planted-and-managed garden was installed in 2016 and is intended to provide food for hummingbirds and insects and serve as an educational native planting resource for the community.  In 2017 more native plants were planted and most non-natives were removed and even more importantly, two oak trees were planted in the park. 

In 2017 the Urban Forestry Commission began working with the city to restore Walton Oaks Park, which is an oak savannah remnant.  We invited two restoration experts to give us advice on how to proceed and began working to remove invasive plants, like buckthorn, mulberry, garlic mustard and so forth. We utilized many volunteers from both the university and the community in this effort.  This will be an ongoing project and eventually will showcase native wildflowers and plants and provide a bird friendly habitat for bird watchers as well as preserving the magnificent bur oaks some of which are estimated to be more than 300 years old.

The Urban Forestry Commission is continuing to advise the Park and Recreation Board on park plantings. Our mission is to encourage the parks to include native trees, shrubs, and perennials. We asked that Minneiska Park, which is situated adjacent to Trippe Lake and part of a wildlife corridor, be planted with this in mind.

A Chimney Swift tower was built at Cravath Lake Park. The site was chosen because Chimney Swifts were already occupying one of the chimneys in the downtown area in very close proximity to the lake, and the nearby lake provides insects for food. Also, walking/biking path passes nearby so residents can observe the tower and read the informational signage, thereby making the most of an opportunity to educate the public about a declining migratory bird. In 2017 we continued to monitor and clean the tower as necessary.

The Urban Forestry Commission continues in an advisory position for landscape input for any new and revised development in the City of Whitewater. This is ongoing as new projects arise. Our concentration is on native plants to support birdlife and habitat.

In 2018 planning began for the construction of a Purple Martin house in Whitewater. UFC members visited the home of a man who builds Martin houses than can be raised and lowered for cleaning which is a huge advance in being able to maintain them more easily. We researched the type of houses and door openings to try to prevent the invasion by starlings and sparrows, and their needs as far as placement. The Purple Martin will be named the Bird of The Year in 2019 and fundraising will begin to make us able to construct and place our first house in 2019.

On April 4th, 2020, our new Purple Martin House was installed and opened for scouts! Three pairs of Purple Martins took up residence and successfully fledged their clutches! A nearby neighbor provided maintenance and updates to the Urban Forestry Commission, some of which were shared on local media. It was a great success, and we are hoping to purchase a second house in 2021.

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

Whitewater’s Urban Forestry Commission was charged by Whitewater’s Common Council with drafting a Natural Landscape Ordinance ensuring that homeowners had legal rights and protection to maintain a non-turf grass natural landscape. Approved landscapes include, but are not limited to: woodland, oak savanna, prairie, sustenance gardens, flower gardens, and wetlands. The ordinance also defines various invasive plants and methods to eradicate them. The ordinance was approved by the Common Council. Continuing.

13.10.020 - Natural landscape gardens allowed.

(a) A natural heritage garden, ornamental garden, rain garden and/or sustenance garden may be planted if it is in compliance with the following provisions:

(1) The garden does not violate any other City of Whitewater ordinance.

(2) The garden is authorized by the owner or occupier with written permission as verified by owner.

(3) The garden, or any portion thereof, does not encroach on any property ownership line or public right-of-way.

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 of Whitewater ordinance 13.10.050 - Noxious weeds does not allow invasives in the city. The UFC has also made information available on Japanese Knotweed control at the public library.

(a) The following noxious weeds are prohibited in natural landscape gardens:

(1) Buckthorn (Common glossy) (Rhamnus cathartica);

(2) Burdock (Arctium);

(3) Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis);

(4) Garlic Mustard (Allaria petiolata);

(5) Wild Honeysuckles—Japanese (Lonicera japonica); EurAsian bush (Amur, Lonicera maackii); and Morrow's (L. morrowii);

(6) Purple Loosestrife (Lythrium solicaria);

(7) Reed Canary Grass (Pharlaris arundincea); and

(8) Thistles—Purple, Bull (Cirsium vulgare); Musk (Carduusk nutans); Plumeless (Carduus ancanthoides); Yellow star (Centaurea solstiialis); and Canada (Cirsium arvense).

(b) Other invasives that may become problematic in Whitewater, as defined by the Wisconsin DNR listing and pictured in the publication "A Field Guide to Terrestrial Invasive Plants in Wisconsin," Wisconsin DNR 2010, may be referred to the garden landscape review board upon request for review, and said board may recommend that the council add the plant(s) to the above list.

In 2020, Whitewater's Urban Forestry Commission worked to educate the public about the overuse of salt for snow and ice removal, and it's detrimental effects on water and soil. This was published in the local online newspaper and on the city's website. 

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.

Whitewater’s Chamber of Commerce sponsored Whitewater’s Main Street Festival in September 2017. The Urban Forestry Commission staffed a booth using this opportunity to provide information and educational materials to the public on links between a healthy urban forest and Whitewater's role as a Bird City. Handouts were available on native plantings, hazards to birds, bird life, a Snowy Owl brochure (Whitewater's Bird of the Year), bird carvings by a local artist and photos of Whitewater birds and where they were seen, and bird games to play. Many people stopped and talked about their backyard birds and the newly erected Swift Tower.

In 2018, we offered children the opportunity to deconstruct bird nests (after checking with the Wisconsin DNR to make sure it was alright to harvest windfall nests) and pose with their faces in a Snowy Owl cutout poster. We also showed a display of the birds that can be found in our ongoing restoration of Walton Oaks Park. 

The Urban Forestry Commission in 2020 continued to work with Whitewater's City Forester to conduct a burn at Walton Oaks Preserve to maintain the habitat for the many birds that live there. This preserve is located in a location that is near homes and also is partially near a very wet area which makes these burns difficult. We are still hoping for a burn this winter.

I. Document a recent project that created or restored bird habitat in your community. (Exclusions: Bird feeders and small-scale artificial nesting structures)

In 2017 Whitewater began the restoration of Walton Oaks Park, an oak savanna remnant.

Work continued in 2018 on Walton Oaks Park, removing invasives in almost the entire 2.4 acre park.  In the area that was cleared in 2017, grasses and some natives plants show signs of returning and are also important as fuel for a spring burn in 2019 which is very important to clear more of the invasives like red cedars that are becoming numerous and are not welcome as we attempt to restore this to savanna status.

In 2019 Our Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission began a fundraiser to erect one, or hopefully, more Purple Martin Houses in Whitewater to support this bird species.  We were very fortunate to have the first one donated by the family of one of our members who passed away last year who was a very avid bird lover, bird artist and bird watcher!  This Purple Martin House will be dedicated on April 4, 2020 with our member's family present.  We will also work to finish the fundraising that has begun for a second Purple Martin House in another suitable location in the city.

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

In 2017, the Urban Forestry Commission organized the removal of Japanese Knotweed in our community.  Additionally, community members are working to control garlic mustard which has been spreading in the community.  We continue to work on removing and controlling invasives in our parks and preserves. In addition to citywide invasive monitoring, the UFC with the City of Whitewater and community are aggressively working to remove invasives at Walton Oaks Park. 

Work continued in 2018 by city staff to control and kill a large stand of Japanese Knotweed that is trying to spread along Whitewater Creek.

Work continues to stop Japanese Knotweed and other invasives from spreading in city parks and green spaces.

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

Urban Forestry members continue to monitor and maintain the Chimney Swift tower that we built at Cravath Lakefront Park in 2017. 

In 2020 the Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission continued to maintain and monitor our Chimney Swift Tower located at Cravath Lakefront Park in the city. There was evidence of nesting in the spring from the previous year!

Q. Document the establishment of a program to promote the conservation of Purple Martins through research, state of the art management techniques, or public education.

The Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission began fundraising for the purchase of a Purple Martin House for placement in the city. The fundraising was successful and our purchased, multi unit Purple Martin House was opened for business on April 4, 2020. Three families of martins were successfully fledged! The house is being monitored and sparrows and other birds removed regularly by a volunteer who is a neighbor to the park where it is located. The house was cleaned and covered this fall and will be reopened for scouts and returners in early April 2021.

V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The City Plan Board has asked the Urban Forestry Commission to suggest native plantings for landscaping new construction. We have recently been asked to present a landscape plan for an addition to the local lumber company. This is in progress and the UFC will continue to consult on native landscaping alternatives for future developments as they arise. In 2020 this partnership between the City Planning Dept. and UFC continued.

Seeds from native plants continue to be available at Whitewater’s Irvin L. Young Memorial Library’s Heritage Seed Catalogue. Instructions on planting accompany each packet.  The seeds are winterized in a small refrigerator and are made available to community members free of charge.

Urban Forestry members continued in 2018 to review landscape plans for developments in the city to replace suggested non-native plantings of trees, shrubs and perennials with natives that would give a similar effect. It has been our experience that most developers are open to this when we let them know where they can get the native plants to use in their landscape plans.

In 2019 Urban Forestry members inventoried native plant seeds that are housed at our city's library and that are available to the public for free.  We are encouraging those who take seeds from the library to consider harvesting seeds in the fall to replenish the supply available to the public.  We continue to try to educate the public about the importance of native plants to birds and pollinators!

Community Forest Management

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

Whitewater continues to be recognized as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation following its initial award in 1994.

Whitewater continues to be a proud Tree City USA participant in 2020.


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 Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission met with the city forester and requested that more native trees be planted in the city.  The forester responded by ordering about half native species and these were in planted in 2017.

In 2018 100 street trees were planted. Of those all but 15 were native to Wisconsin or cultivars bred for resistance (such as Dutch Elm disease).

In 2020, the Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission began the process of establishing an accredited arboretum in our city. This process has so far included initial planning and meeting with the Whitewater Parks and Recreation Board to obtain the go ahead to proceed, the organization of a subcommittee consisting of the UFC, City Forester and community volunteers with the collaboration and support of The Historic Starin Park Neighborhood, the University of Whitewater Sustainability Office, the Whitewater Unified School District and, in the future, corporate sponsors. We are seeking Level 1 Accreditation through for the development of the woodland in our current Starin Park, which is one of the oldest in the state and consists of 34.5 acres of woodland, a state of the art baseball diamond, softball and baseball fields, a Senior Center, playground and exercise opportunities to include the arboretum. 

The Urban Forestry Commission, along with the City Forester, continues to increase the number and variety of native trees planted in our city each year! We are working to educate ourselves on this topic so that we can better educate our community about the importance of native plants, shrubs and trees.

In 2019 the City of Whitewater planted more than 100 trees, with an emphasis on native trees and trees that give to the birds, either habitat or food or both.

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

On October 1, 2018 the Urban Forestry Commission hosted an incredible educational program at our local library titled, Mighty Oaks and Their Ecosystems.  This program was very well attended and was excellent with so much information about all the way that oak trees contribute to the environment, including providing habitats for birds and insects.  Community groups like the UW-W Optimist Club and Roberta's Gallery provided displays and ornaments and keepsakes that they had made out of acorns collected from Walton Oaks Nature Preserve.

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 Urban Forestry Committee had a table set up at the Main Street Festival, farmer's markets, and other public events with literature focusing on keeping birds safe from both window strikes and free-roaming cats. Literature is also available at the public library, the city’s municipal building and other venues in and around Whitewater. Pages devoted to Bird City Whitewater are online on the city’s UFC webpage outlining good practices for limiting the hazards to birds. The City of Whitewater also has an ordinance against free-roaming pets.

In 2020 I personally spoke to various community members about keeping their cats indoors. The city does have a leash law for cats, but many residents don't obey it. Many don't realize it is an ordinance in the city and aren't aware of how much damage cats can do to bird populations.  

Along with continuing to make brochures about hazards to birds available to the public at the library and other city locations, the UFC purchased copies of catalogues advertising outdoor enclosures of varying designs for cats and placed them at the library and included them on display tables. Future work to limit hazards to birds will include working with Studio 84 and MakerSpace to design and create patterns for constructing “Catios,” or outdoor cat enclosures to keep bird safe from domestic cat predation. In 2017, we continued to educate the community about the dangers that cats pose to birds, and worked to get the word out. 

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

The Urban Forestry Committee had a table set up at the Main Street Festival with literature focusing on keeping birds safe from both window strikes and free-roaming cats. Literature is also available at the public library, the city’s municipal building and other venues in and around Whitewater. Pages devoted to Bird City Whitewater will be online on the city’s UFC webpage outlining good practices for limiting the hazards to birds. The City of Whitewater also has an ordinance against free-roaming pets. In 2017 the Urban Forestry Commission continued to work to make sure that property owners have access to information available to limit the harm to birds from window strikes.

2020 was a very difficult year for getting our brochures about bird strikes and keeping cats indoors because of the Covid-19 virus. The library and city office were closed to the public for much of the year. This is something we hope will improve next year as the vaccine becomes widely applied, allowing the public to congregate again.

F. Demonstrate that your community enforces an ordinance that requires domestic cats to be kept indoors, on a leash, or in an enclosure to prevent them from preying on birds and other wildlife and spreading disease.

9.08.100 - Restraint of dogs and cats.

Any person owning or having charge, custody, care or control of any dog or cat shall keep such animal exclusively upon his or her own premises, which shall include their automotive, either by personal or direct supervision, such as voice command of such person physically present, or keeping such animal upon an appropriate chain or tie not less than six feet in length, or in an enclosed yard, either walled or fenced, or in any other appropriate restraining enclosure.

(Ord. 1034 §1(part), 1094).

In 2018 the Urban Forestry Commission was finally successful in closing down a cat colony kept in the city limits in a small wild area.  The head of the Department of Public Works issued an order to the people running the outdoor cat colony requiring them to completely remove the feral cats, their plastic homes and food dishes and any other materials immediately.  The group "Community Cat" requested and were granted an extension until July 1, 2018 at which time an inspection was made and officials found that all had been removed.  This was a huge victory for the birds of Whitewater!

In 2020, I was able to recommend that my neighbor build a catio because they like to let their pet cat outside.  

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. 

In 2017, the Urban Forestry Commission was very active in our schools. We presented interactive educational opportunities for kids to learn about the importance of oak trees in the ecosystem, especially with regard to habitats for birds and other wildlife.  Children learned how to tell if an acorn is viable or not, they created ornaments from the unviable acorns and another class is starting oak tree seedings with viable acorns.  Another class learned about all the birds, animals and insects that benefit from oak trees by taking part in placing these animals and birds on a large oak tree panel (in photo gallery). They were also told about the Territorial Oak in Whitewater that marked the beginning of the city when early surveyors were platting out the town.  Students from UW-W helped with these classroom projects.

In 2020 the Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission worked in partnership and as mentor with the University of Wisconsin Whitewater's SAGE group which is devoted to preserving the environment, climate change, and all that this entails. Their project was interrupted because of the pandemic, but we still hope to complete their plan to plant 50 trees in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

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.

The Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission launched a Bird City webpage that includes information on many bird conservation related topics, including loss of habitat, invasive plant species, creating backyard habitat, hazards to birds and preventing them, nest boxes, and feeding birds. Supplemental links include the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Wild Ones, American Bird Conservancy, Bird City Wisconsin, and 2 videos, one on Bird City Wisconsin and a presentation on Whitewater's birds by Scott Weberpal, bird enthusiast and photographer. This is ongoing.

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

in 2017 the Whitewater Arts Alliance sponsored its 3rd annual Artrageous Bird Photography Contest.  The photos are on display for an extended period of time and then an event is held to judge and award prizes.  (Printout of Arts Alliance flyer in photo gallery)

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

Lincoln Elementary School's fifth grade students created a display window at the Irvin L. Young Library featuring information about the Snowy Owl and newly acquired library books on that species.  

In 2020 UFC published in our online Newspaper, The Whitewater Banner, an invitation for residents to participate in the Christmas Bird Count. 

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 March of 2017 a UFC member gave a presentation on the importance of native plants which support native insects, which, in turn, support native birds, at the Irvin L. Young Library in Whitewater.  The evening presentation was very well received and attended by members from our own community and also surrounding communities.  The emphasis was on letting people know that ALL birds feeds insects to their young in the nest and that without native plants to support native insects and pollinators, this food source would not exist for nestling birds.  

The UFC Chair is a Master Gardener and works online to educate people about the importance of native plants to the environment, birds and other wildlife.

G. Provide a link to your community’s Bird City Wisconsin webpage, which must be visible from the main page of your municipal website (it may be located at the first level of a drop down menu on the main page but cannot be any less visible) OR demonstrate that your Bird City effort has a significant social media presence.

The City of Whitewater's main government page, lists Bird City first under the Community drop down tab.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

There are two videos available on the City of Whitewater’s website that raise awareness. The first, "The Park Bench", is a senior citizen's informational video series on Whitewater's local tv channel. The UFC gave a 40-minute talk about Bird City. The second video, "Birds of Whitewater", is a recorded presentation given by Scott Weberpahl, bird enthusiast and photographer. Scott spoke to over 50 people at the Irvin L. Young Memorial Library in 2015, and presented a slide show of the many local birds he has photographed. He made available supportive materials including a handout detailing the birds he's captured on camera, the locations, time of year, etc. and opened the talk for questions and comments.  In 2017 Whitewater celebrated the Snowy Owl and distributed a brochure with pictures and information throughout the community.  

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.

In 2017, the City of Whitewater celebrated IMBD by holding a Migratory Bird Fair at Cravath Lake Front Community Building.  This event was scheduled to coincide with the weekly Farmers Market on the same site to encourage more people to attend.  We promoted attendance through posters and handouts and by handing out coupons at the market which matched bird related prizes at the Fair.  Also, we were given time on the Michael McLish radio program to promote both the Fair and Bird City.  We were pleased to have nearly 160 visitors.

In 2020 the Whitewater Urban Forestry Commission had planned the dedication of an Oak tree for Arbor Day as well as the dedication of our first Purple Martin House. Both of these events had to be postponed because of the pandemic. I, as Chair of the UFC, did write and submit articles to our local paper with photos to announce them during the year. 

In 2020 we had planned to hold a dedication event for our new Purple Martin House located in Minnieska Park in Whitwater.  Like our Earth Day celebration, we were unable to hold this event because of the public health concerns with gatherings.  We would still like to dedicate this house in 2021, bringing in the family of the man who sponsored our first house. Hopefully we will be able to do this for IMBD!

We were not able to hold an event this year because of the 2020 pandemic. The Fair offered an opportunity to  paint a migratory bird mural, measure oneself on the wingspan banner, a Snowy Owl Cutout that allowed children to pose as a Snowy Owl for pictures, table with wildflower plantings, Mariette Nowak giving information on Wisconsin Wild Ones and her book on backyard plantings for birds, oriole bird feeder construction,  Walton Oak Park brochures and lists of birds found there, a computer set up with a scrolling presentation of photos of migratory birds that pass through Whitewater, informational brochures, and 3 featured migratory birds, Robin, Sandhill Crane, and White Pelican.  Pictures of these birds were poster size and maps of their migratory journeys were featured.  There was a table that offered games and coloring sheets about migratory birds.  Many of the ideas for this celebration came from the wonderful Environment for the America's site, including a large puzzle made out of their poster.

In 2018 the Urban Forestry Commission celebrated International Migratory Bird Day at our city's Main Street Festival. We had large displays showing migratory maps, we featured games showing the dangers that migrating birds may encounter, (like overhead wires and predators) as well as a Migratory Bird bean bag game that required players to throw the correct bird bag into their correct migration hole.  We offered migration puzzles and Great Lakes Migration posters that showed in detail, the birds that migrate into and out of our area.

In 2019 The Urban Forestry Commission encouraged citizens to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Joined Bird City: 2014

Population: 14,390

Incorporated: 1885

Area: 9.06 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Map