Vision for the Future
A protected portion of the North Pikes Creek headwaters is held as a Community Forest. This property is characterized by alder thickets, upland and wetland forests, year-round springs, seeps, ephemeral ponds, a trout stream, and beaver ponds. The creek and wetlands lie in a nearly mile wide valley with high slopes on three sides, and thus, receive a significant amount of snowmelt and water runoff. The recharge-discharge wetland functions like a giant sponge, absorbing and holding the seasonal and periodic runoff, and releasing water during dry periods. The wetlands serve to slow the velocity and control the volume of this runoff, which ameliorates flooding and reduces bank erosion downstream. In the discharge cycle, the wetlands provide water to the lower creek, which is an essential benefit for the trout fishery during dry periods, and for local fruit farmers who depend on the aquifer for irrigation. Thoughtful stewardship of this resource will ensure that the wetlands continue to protect and buffer the lower creek and Lake Superior from siltation and degradation, and continue to protect the hydrologic health of the downstream aquatic habitat.
The characteristics of the property, which constitute its significant benefits to the community, also make site access difficult for a greater part of the year. The Friends will work to provide safe access to the wetland site for educational use by local K-12 schoolchildren, and the general public. Plans to enhance the site include the construction of a parking facility that will accommodate a full-sized school bus, the installation of a wheelchair accessible boardwalk and viewing platform complying with U.S. Forest Service trail accessibility guidelines, woodchip paths, interpretive signage, a pavilion to shelter a few picnic tables to accommodate outdoor classroom work, and a composting toilet.
The habitat will also be enhanced to increase early successional forest on the site to optimize wildlife habitat. As northern forests mature there is less understory and fewer openings than would occur naturally, which negatively impacts species that rely on young forest. In all, 70% of all Wisconsin wildlife species are reliant on young forests, including Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, Golden-winged Warbler and approximately 50 other bird species. A significant number of species are in decline due to loss of young forest habitat. The creation of small openings in the upland aspen forest is planned to regenerate portions of the aspen on a cyclical basis.
The local K-12 schools and community non-profit groups plan to use the property as a wetland education classroom and living laboratory, once safe access to the site has been created. The proximity of the wetlands property to the Bayfield Schools makes site use during class time convenient. Site activities that have been considered include:
- Construction of Wood Duck boxes and Mallard hen houses
- Construction of bat houses
- Assisting with boardwalk installation
- Design and placement of bilingual interpretive signage in English and Ojibwe
- Alder regeneration
- Planting native trees, grasses and forbs
- Documenting mammals using the site
- Water quality and temperature testing
The Friends will encourage and facilitate these educational efforts in order to actively nurture the next generation of environmental stewards.
The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong. To be alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human. To damage this community is to diminish our own existence.
~ Thomas Berry