How a Small Trail Can Make a Big Difference
Restoring Prairie, Woods, and Pond: How a Small Trail Can Make a Big Difference is about activism at the community level—and tells how a small village in southeastern Wisconsin has transformed an eight-acre, municipally owned dumping ground and wasteland into a nature trail with three distinct ecosystems: a prairie, woodland, and ephemeral pond wetland. The trail runs from Eagle Elementary to the public library. Illustrated with color photos, the book explains how this trail has become a valuable outdoor classroom—even during COVID-19—a STEM teaching center, a respite for people young and old, and a place for community engagement.
One of the early turning points in the project came in spring 2010 when a few hardy volunteers trekked through the abandoned lot’s thick buckthorn and other invasives and discovered something remarkable: a few hardy native purple coneflowers and hoary vervain. This proved to be evidence of Eagle Prairie, what had once been the largest pre-settlement prairies in this part of Wisconsin. Frog song revealed another hidden gem: an almost inaccessible ephemeral pond—a rare wetland. Meanwhile, a few struggling woodland natives provided evidence of a small forest.
The forgotten wilderness wasn’t a dead zone after all.
With only a bare-bones budget, a group of volunteers—everyone from local firemen and high school students, to local business owners and Boy Scouts—came together to pitch in to clear invasives, cut buckthorn, grade the trail, and plant native prairie, woodland, and wetland species.
Reviews and Comments
“More than a simple account of a wilderness restoration project. This is activism at its most accessible: the beautiful struggles of a region and community to make a large difference in a small world. A magical and timely story of ecosystems restored to their former glory.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)