A recently updated Lakeshore Nature Preserve Master Plan outlined recommendations to improve facilities, lands and plant communities to be implemented in the next 10 years on the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
The preserve covers 300 acres of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and includes Picnic Point, the Biocore Prairie, Eagle Heights Community Gardens and the Lakeshore trail – totaling a third of the land that makes up the campus.
The updated master plan aims to improve or add more facilities such as fire circles, trails, overlooks and benches, said assistant director of the preserve Laura Wyatt.
The biggest proposition is to create a preserve outreach center that could double as a space to store equipment for volunteers, and as a place to support education and classes held at the preserve, Wyatt explained.
“I think it will really elevate the preserve so that additional interest and investment is made in these cherished lands,” she said.
Wyatt also said an outdoor shelter near the Biocore Prairie is proposed to facilitate more outdoor learning and uphold the preserve’s role as an outdoor classroom.
The preserve staff talked with a Ho-Chunk native representative on how their indigenous culture could be shared, as the land the preserve is situated on is ancestral Ho-Chunk and has been used for over 12,000 years, said Rhonda James, the project manager of the master plan.
“That's something that we're pretty excited about, the potential to help them be able to share that as they see fit,” said James.
The plan also emphasized maintaining plant communities and controlling invasive species on the land. One of their goals was to create a clear ecological direction on how the management of the area will move forward, James said.
“That was kind of our first and foremost planning goal with this update — to really focus on these ecological communities and where they best can be restored on our site,” she said.
Additionally, the plan proposed a number of studies to be conducted on the preserve’s features, such as on a portion of collapsed shoreline, vegetational management plans and on potential interpretive signage, James explained.
Wyatt said the plan will also help identify potential academic projects by monitoring, surveying and analyzing how climate change will impact the proposed changes.
“These are all research level topics that we would like to work [on] more with faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students,” Wyatt said. “And having the preserve continue to be used as that outdoor laboratory so people are getting experience with research.”
The preserve plays an important role in maintaining the wellbeing of visitors, as spending time in natural areas provides a place of respite and is vital to wellness, Wyatt emphasized
“Outdoor spaces play a big part in mental wellbeing and really need to be utilized more,” Wyatt said. “So we look at developing relationships with departments on campus on how we can get more people to utilize our trails and utilize the preserve for that wellbeing aspect.”