Making our communities healthy for birds... and people

City of Whitewater

Community Achievements

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.

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 serve as an educational native planting resource for the city.

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.

Also, we have started our development of a nature park, Clay St. Nature Park. By engaging members of the community, we not only spread the word that we have an open invitation for citizen involvement but by doing so, created an educational opportunity that expanded awareness for environmental support.  We planted a native perennial flower bed near the park sign. The flowers will start to bloom in the spring.

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 signage, thereby making the most of an opportunity to educate the public about a declining migratory bird.

The Urban Forestry Commission is now in an advisory position for landscape input for any new and revised development in the City of Whitewater.

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.

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.

Along with information about invasive plantings on Whitewater’s website, the City had Bernadette Williams, DNR specialist on invasive plants, speak to the public. This was a two hour lecture with lively discussion that brought an awareness of the need for us to support native plants. Also, Whitewater engaged Robert Ahrenhoerster, “Prairie Bob” of Prairie Seed Source, to speak on “Bringing Back Native Prairies” in public spaces and private yards. This presentation was given at the public library.

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 continued to sponsor Whitewater’s Main Street Festival in September 2016. 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 woodpecker brochure (Whitewater's Bird of the Year), woodpecker carvings by a local artist and bird games to play. Many people stopped and talked about their backyard birds and the newly erected Swift Tower.

V. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

The City Plan Board has asked the Urban Forestry Commission to suggest plantings for new construction in the city. A dental building was to be built near the edge of town. We viewed the landscape plans and made suggestions for native plants that were especially supportive of bird life and the architect changed his approach and incorporated the Commission’s recommendations.

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

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.

F. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

Whitewater, a Tree City, seeks to improve the quality of life by increasing our urban forest. Significant increase in our urban forest depends on a community that appreciates the benefits of trees and offers their enthusiastic support and participation in efforts to “green” the city. The Urban Forestry Commission developed a tree survey to engage the public in the issues and to gather their preferences, creating a Survey Monkey form and placing hard copies around the city. The survey asked respondents to give their opinions and preferences on the City’s trees and plantings. Many citizens responded.

Continuing with the emphasis on the benefit of trees in our environment, the UFC created a window display at the local library. A member of the community fashioned a large tree and perched many of the Audubon stuffed birds on its branches. New books about trees for all ages were displayed with the tree.

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 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.

Along with continuing to making 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.

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.

Along with continuing to making 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.

Public Education

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 Committee launched a Bird City webpage that includes information on many bird conservation related topics, including loss of habitat, creating backyard habitat, hazards to birds and preventing them, nest boxes, and feeding birds. Supplemental links will include the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Wild Ones and the American Bird Conservancy.

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).

Whitewater planned a Swift Night Out event in fall 2015 but had to cancel the event due to inclement weather. The City plans to hold this event again in the fall of 2016, when the Chimney Swifts are roosting.

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

Whitewater’s second annual citywide bird photography contest was sponsored by the Whitewater Arts Alliance. This event’s success has inspired a summer public art project that offered several wooden cut out silhouettes of birds, which are sponsored by members of the community, painted by local artists, and then attached to the downtown lamp posts for the summer.

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

Looking forward to the 2017 Bird of the Year choice, we engaged Lincoln Elementary School to make the choice for us. Being an election year, we used that as a theme for voting on the bird choice. We created a poster and gave information to the teachers on each of the six birds to be considered and the children voted on the Presidential voting day. The Snowy Owl was the winner and we feel that the process not only focused on a special bird but on bird life in general. We hope offer this activity to other groups in the following years.

N. OTHER: Demonstrate in a narrative.

In 2016, Whitewater celebrated the woodpecker species found in our area with a short lecture about the woodpeckers at a UFC meeting and then published a brochure that was placed around the city illustrating the different species and habits. The Urban Forestry Commission was also invited by Rotary Gardens in Janesville to have a display table at their 2016 Earth Day event. They were very interested in Whitewater’s Swift Tower and wanted the relevant information and experience available to the public. The UFC had a local woodcarver to create a replica Swift Tower that could be placed on the display table with literature about how to build a tower and offered other handouts, including brochures about invasive plants and other bird related information.

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.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

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.

In 2016, the City of Whitewater celebrated IMBD at the dedication of its new Chimney Swift Tower. The event featured two speakers: the assistant city manager spoke about the fund drive to build the tower and a local bird enthusiast spoke about the migratory birds in the area.

Photo Gallery

Community Details

Joined Bird City: 2014

Population: 14,390

Incorporated: 1885

Area: 9.06 mi2

Community Website

Community Bird City Page

Community Map