Located adjacent to the City of Sun Prairie, the 145-acre Parick Marsh is surrounded by land owned and managed by the Wisconsin DNR, Dane County, and Natural Heritage Land Trust. The conservation and recreation values of Patrick Marsh merited its inclusion in the Wisconsin DNR's Land Legacy Report, a list of the 229 places that are critical to protect "to meet Wisconsin's future conservation and recreation needs in the next 50 years." Patrick Marsh is well-situated to meet some of those needs, being located on the door step of the city of Sun Prairie, which is home to 31,000 people.
Natural Heritage Land Trust is working in partnership with the Patrick Marsh Conservancy, local residents, groups including the Discovery Club at Patrick Marsh Middle School, and local governments to manage and restore wildlife habitat at Patrick Marsh and create trails that connect the protected properties at the Marsh with surrounding neighborhoods, making it an inviting place to visit. Patrick Marsh is open to the public for hiking, nature study, and other activities.
Update March 2017
This winter, Operation Fresh Start continued their work making room for bur and white oaks on the west side of Patrick Marsh. The savanna is part of the adopted lands now managed by Natural Heritage Land Trust but has been a management focus for the last three winters. NHLT also hired Quercus Land Stewardship Services to remove a clone of silver maples just north of the savanna.
Huge shoutout to the four volunteers that joined us on a four-degree day in January to help create the brush pile that would be burned for our February Snowshoe and Bonfire event.
Update November 2016
On November 7, over 250 Patrick Marsh Middle School (PMMS) students helped us plant ~18 acres of soybean field to pollinator prairie habitat. This new prairie will showcase short grasses and showy wildflowers that are especially attractive to our important pollinator species like butterflies and bees. Across the street from the pollinator prairie, PMMS students helped plant 18 acres of prairie in 2013 which has established very successfully.
Also this month, Natural Heritage Land Trust completed a land swap with Dane County to improve efficiency in land management at Patrick Marsh. Dane County donated 14 acres of land on the south side of Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area (map). In exchange, Natural Heritage Land Trust donated 40 acres of land north of Waunakee to Dane County. This land, the Wilke Prairie Preserve (map), is adjacent to the County’s Waunakee Prairie.
In October, Natural Heritage Land Trust officially adopted Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area. While the DNR will still own the 225-acre wildlife area, the Land Trust will expand its land management activities, working with volunteers and others to improve wildlife habitat and maintain the hiking trails and signs around the marsh. In anticipation of our new partnership, our 5-person Prairie Partners internship crew began working every other Monday at Patrick Marsh this summer. The crew met DNR wildlife biologist Andy Paulios on their first day and were able to ask questions about habitat management and career planning. The crew primarily worked to remove invasive weeds and clear trails for users on both DNR and NHLT land.
Thank you to the many volunteers that helped clear and mow trails, remove invasive trees and brush, and organize the prairie planting.
Update September 2015
This summer our Prairie Partners intern crew spent several days weeding non-native plants at the prairie planted in November 2013 by students from Patrick Marsh Middle School. While the prairie has been growing for only two years, it is already well-established with a variety of prairie grasses and flowers, putting on a nice show throughout the summer. But in addition to the native plants, scattered non-native invasive plants like white sweet clover, wild parsnip, and burdock popped up across the prairie and needed to be removed by the summer crew. The crew also spent a day cutting saplings of box elder out of the Schuster Road savanna and several mornings pulling wild parsnip out of the shoulder of Town Hall Road.
On west side of Patrick Marsh, Operation Fresh Start was at work in July and August building a wildlife viewing platform on a small rise overlooking the marsh. The platform is designed like a bird in flight; its 40’ wingspread allows an entire class of students to get a front-row view of the marsh. Shane Bernau of Ken Saiki Design, Inc. came up the idea for the platform when he was a Landscape Architecture student at the University of Wisconsin Madison several years ago. The platform and other visitor improvements were funded in part by the Sun Prairie Rotary and Evjue Foundation. Read more about those improvements.
Update December 2014
Operation Fresh Start is back at work making room for the native bur oaks in the savanna on Natural Heritage Land Trust's property just north of Schuster Road. Oak savanna is one of the rarest natural habitats found in Wisconsin. Patrick Marsh is fortunate to have two savanna remnants, one on Land Trust property and the other around a kettle lake southwest of the marsh on the DNR land. The Operation Fresh Start crew is removing basswood trees that threatened to crowd out the oaks -- and now the beauty of the individual oaks is emerging for all to see. At a work party this fall, volunteers made a significant dent in the box elder brush that had grown up south of the savanna. And last winter contractor Quercus Land Stewardship Services cut down willows and cottonwoods growing up along the ditch in the old marsh north of the savanna.