Crossroads at Big Creek is about to embark on a large-scale restoration of the nine-acre preserve it has nicknamed The Cove. Located near Utah Street in Sturgeon Bay, the land has been designated as a point of significance by the Wisconsin DNR regarding migratory bird patterns. Crossroads has set up projects over a three-year timeline to help The Cove Preserve continue to serve that critical ecological function. Naturalist and Program Director Coggin Heeringa says an open house will happen Saturday, September 26th from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, coinciding with National Public Lands Day.
Several landscape firms will be on hand. Not only will they be providing information about the future work at Crossroads, but they have presentations planned that could prove useful in sprucing up your yard. The full press release is below.
Crossroads at Big Creek will celebrate National Public Lands Day 2020 with a socially-distanced Open House at The Cove Preserve (817 South 20th Place) on Saturday, September 26, from 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. During this outdoor event, the community can observe one of the initial land restoration projects which will take place at Crossroads during the next three years.
Cream City Conservation Corp, an organization based in Milwaukee committed to ecological restoration and racial equity, will work with Crossroads staff and interns to plant 166 native trees and shrubs on what is called the “upper terrace” of The Cove Preserve.
At 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 and 2:00 pm, Dan Collins and Nancy Aten of Landscapes of Place will present 20-minute “Teach-Ins” on ecological restoration. They will give an overview of the plan for The Cove and answer questions – all in a safe, outdoor, socially-distanced setting. Archaeologists from Midwest Archaeological Consultants will also be on hand to describe the research they have done at The Cove.
About six years ago, using individual donations and grant funding, Crossroads at Big Creek purchased the 9- acre parcel that we now call The Cove Preserve. The land was listed as “six buildable lots.” At the time of acquisition, our goal was to protect the water of the estuary so pike, suckers and other fish could continue to spawn in Big Creek.
We did not know then that the land was an archaeological site, now state-registered. We were vaguely aware that trails on the site passed through an ephemeral wetland, but we did not expect it to be a rare sedge meadow. And, although we knew that waterfowl used The Cove during migration, we did not know the property would be designated as “a stopover of significance” in the Wisconsin DNR Migratory Bird Conservation Plan.
Clearly, The Cove was more precious than we knew, but it had been degraded over the years. And since the installation of our Kayak Launch/Wildlife Observation Platform two years ago, the land also was becoming more heavily used as a recreational destination.
Again, due to the generosity of the community, Crossroads was able to raise the funds for a drive-through boat unloading and parking area, carefully sited to avoid artifact-rich areas and to prevent siltation and pollution of the estuary. Our objective was to encourage and safely accommodate visitors while protecting the archaeological site and the body of water connecting Big Creek to the Bay of Sturgeon Bay and beyond.
That project is complete. This fall, we turn our attention to creating high-quality habitat for birds and other wildlife. So, this Saturday, we plant trees.
Ironically, planting trees is a strategy to meet our original goal of protecting the water. Trees are celebrated for filtering air, removing greenhouse gasses and for releasing oxygen. They literally cool the air around them. Less appreciated is their ability to improve water quality.
During heavy storms, which seem to be happening with increasing frequency, tree leaves break the fall of raindrops.
A large raindrop actually shatters when it hits a leaf. Rather than pounding and eroding the soil, the shattered raindrops are more like mist, gently drifting to the ground below.
Some rainwater clings to foliage and falls gently as the leaves rustle in the breeze during the hours following a storm. Gently falling rains does not create gullies, nor does it carry silt, microbes and fertilizers into the water.
We hope Open House visitors will be inspired by our example and become involved in environmental stewardship at Crossroads and elsewhere.
During the Open House, people who have been participating in Crossroads Habitat Trail Challenge can pick up their finisher’s gift – a choice of a native tree seedling from Evergreen Nursery, donated by the Climate Change Coalition of Door County, or a copy of the field guide “Door County Wildflowers” by Fran M. Burton and Aurelia M. Stampp, thanks to the generosity of the Burton Family.
On Saturday evening, the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society, in collaboration with Crossroads and the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, will celebrate International Observe the Moon Night at the Crossroads Astronomy Campus (2200 Utah St.).
Organizers are suggesting that participants enjoy the night sky in small groups, not to exceed five or six people (masked if not from the same household), and that groups take advantage of the large open area to spread out.
Bathroom facilities will be available but masks will be required. DPAS uses red lights in the Astronomy Campus so as not to interfere with night vision.
Because the observatory is closed to the public and sharing equipment is not recommended, this is a BYOB – Bring Your Own Binoculars event. Special moon-viewing opportunities will also be available.
Each group should bring snacks, insect repellent, and deck chairs (most serious amateur astronomers favor reclining lawn chairs), but it’s also fun to lie out on blankets or sleeping bags.
Members of the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will be on hand with their green laser pointers. They will point out the visible planets, trace the constellations, and answer your questions.
Until further notice, the buildings at Crossroads at Big Creek are closed, but the restrooms, trails and our kayak launch are open every day, all day. We encourage the community to use our preserves, as always, free of charge, for recreation, for learning and for the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor exercise.
All upcoming programming will be offered outdoors adhering to social distancing. Masks recommended.
*Photo courtesy of Crossroads Facebook page.