Earlier this year, Bird City Wisconsin awarded small grants to six Bird City communities: Bayfield, Fond du Lac, Madison, Ozaukee County, Sheboygan, and Wausau. Here's what Bayfield accomplished with its award.
Kate Kitchell, chair of the City of Bayfield’s Parks and Recreation Committee, reports that the city initiated a project to enhance access to and appreciation of the Big Ravine Preserve in 2019.
Located just a block from the city’s downtown, the preserve encompasses over 350 forested acres with a steep watershed and creek that have been protected in a natural state since the 1950s. It includes significant intact habitat for a variety of migratory and breeding birds, as well as other wildlife, and is cherished by Bayfield residents, who use it year-round for enjoying nature, bird watching, and non-motorized recreation.
A component of Bayfield’s enhancement project is creating a gateway to the preserve at the Gil Larsen Trailhead by improving physical access, adding native trees, installing a native plant garden, and describing the natural and cultural history as well as recreational opportunities. Bird City Wisconsin contributed $500 toward the creation of an interpretive sign describing the geographical significance of the Big Ravine and its enchanting forests, colorful birds, and secretive wildlife.
Kate reports that over a dozen species of native plants are now thriving in the preserve’s new native plant garden, and that butterflies, bees, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were all quick to visit. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic kept the interpretive sign from being created and installed by August, as planned, but Kate reports that the design is complete and the sign will be erected in spring 2021, after the ground thaws.
She also tells us that the Big Ravine saw unprecedented numbers of visitors this year. “We estimate three or four times more users than in previous years, including many family groups with lots of children enjoying the trails, creek, and the beauty of the ravine,” she writes. “Comments were overwhelmingly positive, including surprise about such a gem right in Bayfield’s backyard as well as plans to return.”
Bird City Wisconsin's small grants were intended to kickstart local projects that help Bird City communities create and protect bird habitat, educate residents about the many positive interactions between birds and people, and reduce threats to birds.