21+ Outdoor Dining and Drink Experiences in Autumn at Riveredge

Join Riveredge Nature Center for autumn outdoor 21+ food and drink series including Small Plates & Big Brews and Wine Walk hiking programs. Each program has limited capacity and takes place outdoors beginning or ending at the Riveredge Sugarbush House. These programs are scheduled throughout September, October, and November. These are intimate, collaborative experiences with local restaurants, producers, and purveyors in which participants are asked to wear masks in between eating and drinking.

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Small Plates & Big Brews

The Fermentorium is the main collaborator for Small Plates & Big Brews and the first event takes place with The Norbert on Thursday, September 17. Seating will take place outdoors in a manner that reinforces social distancing. Participants are asked to wear masks when not actively eating or drinking. Additional events take place on Thursday, October 1 and Thursday, October 15.

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Wine Walks

Evening Wine Walk collaborators include: Lovino Sangria, Mershon’s Cider, Vines to Cellar, and Sunshine Winery. Each walk is led by a Riveredge Naturalist Educator. Participants are asked to wear masks when not actively eating or drinking.

Here is our complete Wine Walks Schedule. Click for details and registration:

Riveredge is Seeking Homeschool Education Volunteers

For a decade, Riveredge Nature Center has hosted a premier Homeschool Program helping families add science, environmental education, and inquiry-based outdoor exploration to their home curriculum. In the current Covid-19 landscape, the Riveredge Homeschool Ed-Ventures Program is seeing unprecedented registration, and has even added an extra day of homeschool scheduling. As a result, Riveredge is seeking additional volunteers to aid in homeschool education efforts.
Homeschool volunteers help inspire young learners about the great outdoors. Every other week on either Monday,  Wednesday, or Friday, homeschool students come from all over southeast Wisconsin to Riveredge Nature Center to learn about science and the environment. Homeschool Assistants are responsible for aiding our education staff in keeping the group together while outdoors, supervising for short periods, helping students with their activities and crafts, and creating a safe, positive environment for students. Consistency is preferred, must be able to hike up to 1 mile on unpaved terrain. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shifts are available. Each shift is from 8:45am-12:15pm. Please follow this link to complete our volunteer application and receive training. As these volunteers will have direct interaction with children, a background check is required.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Volunteers are protected by a mask requirement for themselves and all guests of the program while indoors or unable to social distance 6ft apart. Additionally, Riveredge can provide clear face shields for volunteers who would like to wear them. Learning tools are wiped down between volunteers and cleaning spray is available to volunteers to re-wipe any area if guests touch surfaces. We have separate enter and exit doors to keep traffic flow going in one direction. If you have additional questions regarding our COVID-19 procedures please feel free to contact us.

For additional information, please contact Kacey Tait, Riveredge Inquiry-Based Curriculum and Instruction Manager (also copied in this email) at ktait@riveredge.us or (262)375-2715 x13.

Diversity Outdoors, Part 2

July 23, 2020

Dear Riveredge Family,

 

We promised to keep you updated on our work in decreasing systemic barriers for communities of color when accessing the outdoors. 

Since sharing our last reflections with you, we’ve had friends of Riveredge ask us to communicate the work we are already, and have been, engaged in to ensure access to Riveredge for communities throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Others have asked us to clarify our position. We have appreciated hearing all of these comments. Our intent is always to be transparent, honest, and work to build bridges, through nature, within our communities. 

Riveredge supports our local communities and values our strong partnerships with a wide variety of organizations, municipalities, institutions, and community members. We are grateful for the dedicated work of our local police and county sheriff departments, and thankful for all they do to serve not only Riveredge but all of our neighbors and communities.  

Our mission-based work on better serving diverse audiences is centered around equitable access to the natural world. Access which currently has many barriers for communities of color.  We are working to identify and address these barriers at Riveredge. 

For more than 20 years, Riveredge has been involved in transformative partnerships to provide access to many urban Milwaukee schools for learning, engagement, and exploration. Through several different partnerships, over 1,500 students in 65+ different classes come to Riveredge each year. As with other school partnerships, students engage in inquiry and science-based learning explorations in the prairies, forests, and rivers. 

One of the many goals of these partnerships is to help people develop a broader sense of community and sense of place through immersive experiences in the fully restored natural world at Riveredge. Exploring the Milwaukee River and natural world in a non-urban setting and comparing these observations to those in an urban setting leads to further learning in multiple subject areas. In fact, one of our goals at Riveredge is to also develop partnerships with rural and suburban schools to support the same, yet reverse, experience for their students. The beauty of the Milwaukee River as it runs through an urban environment can be just as inspirational for students who have only been exposed to nature in less populated areas. Additionally, what is discovered downstream toward Lake Michigan is an accumulation of everything that makes its way into a river upstream.  The parallels between learning about nature in both urban and rural environments can help us all draw better understandings about commonalities in our urban and rural communities. 

Partnerships have been fundamental at Riveredge to better serve populations who have barriers to accessing nature. Our partnership with the Ozaukee County Aging & Disability Resource Center has resulted in a nature-based “Memory Cafe” for individuals with memory challenges and their caregivers. This program  has introduced time in nature as a healing tool for this community. Similarly, we were elated when Access Ability Wisconsin reached out to us to place an all-terrain wheelchair at Riveredge so that all people, regardless of physical ability, could access the beauty and adventure of the 10-miles of trails at Riveredge. Both of these partnerships have provided more equitable access to nature for many people at Riveredge.

Our pledge to do better in providing equitable access to Riveredge for communities of color is a further step along this path of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Specifically, we are currently….

  • Making plans for an organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion audit to help us better understand the current environment at Riveredge and our strengths and opportunities for improvement in this area. We are hoping to continue our work with Cream City Conservation on this effort and are currently seeking funding to support the implementation of this audit.
  • Pursuing regional discussions about how the Milwaukee River can be used as a conduit to address the urban – rural divide in southeastern Wisconsin. As an organization which strives to connect our communities to the Milwaukee River Watershed, we believe the work to use this natural resource as a figurative and literal connection between communities can be enhanced and further developed.
  • Seeking meaningful partnerships with other organizations to better serve communities of color both at Riveredge and through programming efforts within the communities of southeastern Wisconsin. Just as with all of Riveredge’s significant efforts, true partnerships create greater impact. We do not pretend to be experts in this area, yet we look forward to discovering ways that the beauty, inspiration, and education at Riveredge can be better shared within our communities. 
  • Identifying ways to further our education about diversity, equity and inclusion topics for our staff and Board of Directors team. Education is an ongoing process, and we pledge to continue this journey in the months and years to come.

We can not do this work alone, and we can not do it effectively without working with others. We look forward to the months and years to come with optimism, opportunity, and hope, and inevitably some of this process will be a struggle. We strive to continue the work of better serving our community through the act of listening, dialog, and relationship building. 

Thank you for being part of this Riveredge Family. Thank you for believing in the importance of the natural world and in the critical work to ensure it is accessible for everyone.

 

With Great Gratitude,

 

 

 

Jessica Jens, Executive Director

  

2020 Return the Sturgeon and Sturgeon Fest Statement from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The text below was received by Riveredge Nature Center regarding the Lake Sturgeon egg collection program, Return the Sturgeon effort, and also relates directly to the Sturgeon Fest celebration. With no collection of Lake Sturgeon Eggs, we have no fish to raise onsite at Riveredge, and therefore Sturgeon Fest and the Return the Sturgeon program is on hiatus for 2020. Here is the original letter from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The Return the Sturgeon Program is a treasured part of our Riveredge efforts. We look forward to resuming this 25-year project in 2021 to bring Lake Sturgeon back to the Great lakes and the Milwaukee River!

 

April 22, 2020
To: Lake Sturgeon Egg Collectors
Subject: Temporary Suspension of Lake Sturgeon Egg Collections

The Bureau of Fisheries Management would like to thank you for your continued dedication and commitment to
Lake Sturgeon management. Your current and future efforts to enhance the sturgeon fishery are greatly
appreciated.

Due to the current COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department of Natural Resources has decided to
suspend the collection of Lake Sturgeon eggs this spring. We are currently under a State of Emergency regarding
COVID-19 and are required to limit non-essential travel outlined in Emergency Order #28 to protect the health
and safety of DNR staff and the public. We realize this decision impacts the hard work you have done and
continue to do to meet your goals of restoring lake sturgeon to their native distribution and historic abundance.
However, the Wisconsin DNR believes this decision is necessary to protect our most cherished resources: our
staff and the public we serve.

Lake Sturgeon egg collections require close contact between DNR staff, other agency staff and volunteers. In
addition, many of the spawning areas we conduct these activities at are currently closed due to the pandemic.
This is a temporary suspension of Lake Sturgeon egg collection operations. The DNR remains committed to
continuing our collaborative efforts to enhance and sustain Lake Sturgeon restoration activities throughout the
United States and plan to resume cooperative egg collections again in 2021.

We encourage everybody to stay safe during this public health emergency.

If you have any questions, please contact Todd Kalish at 608-225-5826 or todd.kalish@wisconsin.gov
Todd Kalish

Department of Natural Resources
Bureau of Fisheries Management Deputy Director
101 S. Webster St.
Madison, WI 53707

Diversity Outdoors

 

Dear Riveredge Family,

On June 5, we shared our reflections and solidarity on the movement to end systemic racism in our society  on our social media channels and website

“As a historically and predominantly white-led environmental organization, we realize there is much ground to cover in diversifying the outdoors, and many reasons why Black Americans and People of Color haven’t always felt welcome in wilderness spaces. We support the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for systemic change in our society. Riveredge Nature Center is a sanctuary where each person can embrace, celebrate, and revel in experiencing the wonders nature has to offer. We pledge to continue to improve the way we make these opportunities available to better serve our communities.

Black Lives Matter. Black Birders Matter. Black Experiences Matter.

Education is an ongoing process, and in-step with the Riveredge inquiry-based philosophy, we’re always trying to improve our understanding of our place in the world and how we can better serve the outdoor adventure community.”

Since that time, we have all continued to reflect on our beliefs, personal biases, privileges, and the realities of experiences that are unfamiliar to us. To be part of a community of change, we must first change ourselves. 

The environmental and outdoor fields have struggled, and continue to struggle, to engage and serve Black people and People of Color. The way our society arrived at the outdoors and nature being inherently NOT a privilege for all extends back to the very moment these remarkable tracks of wilderness and wild spaces were created as such, and for whom they were intended to serve at that time. We encourage you to visit Diversify Outdoors to hear for yourself stories from those who have been distanced and separated from the natural world. 

James Edward Mills, climber, journalist, author, and Madison, Wisconsin resident briefly outlines some of the reasons behind this legacy in his book The Adventure Gap:

“Historical reasons may also account for why some African-Americans don’t take pleasure in outdoor experiences. After four hundred years of slavery and forced outdoor labor, African-Americans migrated en masse to major US cities after the Civil War and the end of slavery. Even more left the rural communities of the South during the Great Depression. Jim Crow laws and other forms of discrimination restricted movement and segregated minorities to urban enclaves until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. White supremacist groups typically perpetrated their acts of violence against minorities in wooded areas beyond city limits. Given this legacy, it’s no wonder that African-Americans have often preferred to remain close to home.” 

Mills elaborates on how these factors influence current day demographics: 

“A 2010 Outdoor Recreation Participation survey conducted by the Outdoor Foundation reported that of 137.8 million US citizens engaged in outdoor activities, 80 percent were Caucasiona, a trend that is also reflected in the demographics of those who chose wilderness protection as a career. The National Park Service reported in 2010 that white men occupied 51 percent of positions at that agency and white women, 29 percent. These numbers are similar to those of other land and resource management agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service. 

These statistics become significant when compared against the demographic profile of the nation as a whole. According to Dr. Nina Roberts, an assistant professor and social scientist from San Francisco State University, though African-Americans represent 12.6 percent of the US population, they typically make up a lower proportion of national park visitors (around 5-6 percent, depending on the region). Even with a sharp increase since 2006, “minorities still remain well below the number of visits of their white counterparts in proportion to their population across the United States,” says Roberts.”

At Riveredge, we work every day to connect our communities with the outdoor world, and we know that we must do our part to help bridge this gap. 

We do not yet have a complete list of specific action steps that we will take to correct our own struggles in serving communities of color. But we do want you: our neighbors, members, and friends, to know that we have begun this work. Over the past year, the Riveredge staff team has engaged in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training with the intent to create lasting organizational change in the coming months and years. Within our staff and Board, we are working on plans to further accelerate and prioritize this overdue work. Our goal is to create change within our organization and contribute to change within the culture of outdoor access and environmental education  in the coming year and years to come. 

We know we can do better. We will do better. It will take all of us. And the time is now. 

We will continue to keep you apprised of our progress, invitations for involvement, and action to further our growth as an organization and continue our work to serve our communities more effectively each and every day. 

 

With Great Gratitude,

Jessica Jens, Executive Director

Elizabeth Larsen,  President, Board of Directors

Celebrate Earth Week 2020 Every Day with Riveredge!

50 Years of a Wisconsin Legacy

Cassie Bauer

Did you know that Earth Day was established with the help of a Wisconsin State Senator, Gaylord Nelson, back in 1970? Fifty years ago his vision and commitment to conservation in the state set an example for the nation, as he encouraged peers and inspired generations to act on behalf of our planet. He was instrumental in shifting power to the people to organize grassroots efforts across the nation for the betterment of our natural world. I would have loved to meet Nelson in person, and I still glean wisdom from his words, one of his favorite quotes that I strive to live by is below.

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”- Gaylord Nelson

Happy Earth Day. Pay it forward. Commit to Conservation.

 

Make an Earth Week Pledge to Take Action

Rachel Feerick

Kick off this week with making a pledge of one activity, a few, or one per day in celebration for Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary! These activities can be in your neighborhood or in your home. Share a sidewalk chalk message to inspire others for Earth Day. Check out the ideas we have gathered and shared with you.  Here are a few ideas: Eat more fruits and veggies this week and learn how to compost the scraps. Plant some native seeds or trees. When it comes to cleaning- use washable rags instead of paper towels. Taking shorter showers- try to reduce by 2, 3, or even 5 minutes! Try reading more than streaming or screen time this week.

 

Make a pledge and plan to take action

Writing down a commitment and making a plan are two actions that increase the likelihood there will be follow through and continued action. You can write it down on on paper, make a pretty sign, and/or post photos of your plan and actions on social media. If you want these Earth Day lessons to stick with any age, try this easy activity, it can incorporate a writing prompt and art project.

 

Earth Day Bingo

Julie Dickson

Games are a great way to pass the time during quarantine. Continue the fun playing Earth Week BINGO with the whole family! Get to know the outdoor spaces in your neighborhood, up-cycle something from the recycling, and observe nature from your own yard or patio. You could even win a basket of Riveredge goodies! Play Earth Week BINGO with your family. Get 4 in a row or aim to black out the whole card! Get outside, learn something new, use your senses, and have fun! Please remember to practice social distancing and Leave No Trace principles while exploring outside.

 

Resources:

 

Prep Your yard for Wildlife

Mary Holleback

Spring migrants are winging their way back and looking for safe places to live. Earth Day is a great time to prepare your yard for them. This is an activity the entire family can do. If you have already naturalized your yard you’re off to a good start. The native trees and flowers you’ve planted will provide wildlife with plenty of food and cover. The leaves and dead grass in your compost pile will give wildlife a lot of high quality nesting material. If you have feeders this is a good time to rake up the discarded seeds and sanitize the feeder with a diluted bleach solution. Now is also the time to remove the old nesting material from your bird houses and sanitize them as well. Orioles and hummingbirds will be back around May 1st so haul out your nectar and orange/jelly feeders but be sure to clean them thoroughly before hanging them too.

Try making your own bird bath!

Besides food and shelter, another thing that all living things need is water. If you don’t have a bird bath here’s a simple way to make one. All you need is a water-tight flower-pot tray or old flat cake pan that’s about 2 inches deep. Choose a safe place to put the bath where the ground is flat and there are shrubs (shelter) nearby. Fill the tray with water and place a few pebbles or a larger flat stone inside. The rocks will help the birds judge how deep the water is and give them confidence to get in and take a bath. Now find a good spot inside your house to enjoy watching wildlife playing the water in your new bird bath.

 

Include Older Adults in Your Earth Day Celebrations

Amy LB Dedow

Earth Day is celebrating its 50th year. That means that many older adults can remember when this celebration of environmental stewardship began. What are some ways that we can keep the older adults in our lives connected to stewardship during this time of social distancing? Here is a list of ten ways to connect with older adults for Earth Day.

  1. Drop off a seed starter tray and some seeds for an older neighbor or family member. They are easily available from online sources or your local garden center. Check for curbside pickup options.
  2. Stop by with a potted flower that is pollinator friendly. Leave a Bleeding Heart on the doorstep or a lovely potted Lilac bush for planting.
  3. Video chat with an older adult and take them on a garden tour of your own yard. Ask for their advice about planting and pruning.
  4. Choose a research project together, like creating a shade garden and then meet up virtually to discuss what tip and tricks you find out about.
  5. Volunteer to drop off birdseed or refill the bird feeders outside senior housing so residents can continue to watch the migrating birds.
  6. Create a family contract that states, moving forward, everyone will use reusable gift bags or recycled gift wrap to reduce the use of these unessential paper items. Purchase some gift bags and send them to your favorite older adult.
  7. Have your children make educational videos for their grandparents on subjects like plastic straws, styrofoam, and composting. This is a fabulous way to create intergenerational interactions.
  8. You or your family can create a slideshow of your favorite natural area to share with a skilled nursing facility. Add nature’s soundtrack with bird songs, frogs and other natural sounds like running river water. Check with the facility first to determine the best format to complete your slideshow.
  9. Ask the older adults in your life to write down some advice for planting, pruning and harvesting. This is the perfect time to connect and learn from our elders.
  10. Drop off or send an older adult a pair of binoculars and start a bird log. Together you could meet on the phone once a morning and catalog the birds you are seeing in your own yards. This is a great activity for older grandchildren to share with their grandparents too.

 

 Invasive Mustard Removal

Matt Smith

Most yards and natural areas in the Midwest now have invasive mustards such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). They are less of a threat and more a symbol of historic disturbance and imbalanced plant communities. To correct this imbalance, we encourage you to seed other species after removal. More native diversity means fewer invasive species and greater wildlife opportunity.

Native Seed Nurseries: Agrecol (http://www.agrecol.com/), Prairie Moon (https://www.prairiemoon.com/), Prairie Nursery (https://www.prairienursery.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsaWD47jr6AIVkv3jBx1zrA2BEAAYASAAEgIKtPD_BwE), Two Ferns (http://www.twofernsmadison.com/)

 

Support Our Pollinators

Thelma Heidel-Baker

As plants wake up in spring, so too do our pollinators as they emerge and begin the cycle of finding flowers, collecting pollen and nectar, and pollinating plants in the process. Did you know pollinators help pollinate a third of the food we eat, and we have over 300 species of native bees here in Wisconsin alone? To help our important pollinators, they need lots of different kinds of flowers, so what better way to support them by creating habitat and providing lots of blooms by your home. And bonus is, it’s beautiful!

Lots of small steps can be done right now around your home and yard to help support our pollinators. Pick one (or several) of the following actions to help create a pollinator haven in your own backyard:

 

* Leave the dandelions. We know it’s hard, but welcome the weeds in your yard in early spring, especially dandelions. These early-blooming yellow flowers are some of the first food sources available to native bees.

* Plant some native wildflowers around your home. Not only are they beautiful, but native plants provide the best quality flowers for many of our native pollinators, and there are many to choose from. For a list of some of the best pollinator-friendly plants, check out:

Want a recap? Here are simple steps to help pollinators from the Wisconsin DNR: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/endangeredresources/documents/pollinatorSF.pdf

 

Neighborhood Trash Clean Up

Patricia Gerber

Spring is officially here and that means our winter litter is too! The litter we are now finding in our streets, yards, parks, and other public places is being washed into our streams and rivers with each spring rain. To help slow the spread of pollution, take some time today to go help clean up your neighborhood and our environment. Not only does cleaning up your neighborhood make it a safer and cleaner place for you and your neighbors, but by each of us working together, it makes a difference for our community as a whole.

Grab a bag or a bucket and some safe gloves to help pick up trash. Please make sure to maintain social distancing around others, wash your hands often, be safe and have fun!

After your neighborhood clean up mission is complete, tally the trash you collect and share a picture of your clean up efforts! Post a picture of your most interesting trash or the biggest piece you found with Riveredge Nature Center on Social Media with the hashtag #SharewithRiveredge.

Trash Tally Sheet (4th grade- Adults)

Trash Scavenger Hunt sheet (younger children)

 

Seed Starting at Home

Todd Kraemer-Curtiss

As winter is put to rest, plant life is itching to begin! A great way to kick off the growing season is to seed start. Seed starting puts you ahead of the game for when the weather is warm enough for young plant life to flourish. It’s easy, fun, and a wonderful activity to get people excited about food, flowers, and a more beautiful home. Ready to get started? Here’s what you need:

  • You can use a multitude of containers to start seeds. Options include clean plastic containers, cardboard egg cartons, plant pots, and even toilet paper rolls. Be sure that all of your chosen containers have a form of drainage in them. You can alter containers with scissors to make holes and slits to provide an access route for excess water to leak out of.
  • In a separate container, mix your soil with water just enough so that when you squeeze it, no water runs out of your soil, but it is clearly damp. Fill your containers with your mixed soil and pack it down so that the seed will have good contact and a healthy balance of air and water.
  • Proceed to make a divot on your packed down soil to make a resting place for your seed. Depending on when the seed was bought, it is a safe bet to place more than one seed in each resting place so as to insure that at least one will germinate. Cover your seed(s) with soil and pack them down.
  • Water your planted seeds gently so as to not upset the soil resulting in the seeds uncovering.
  • Place in a sunny spot and keep an eye on your plants. Water them every couple days to once a week and watch as they grow bigger!
  • Once they are ready and the weather is warm enough, plant your little sprout friends in your garden space. It is a very fulfilling activity that is perfect for all ages. Enjoy!

Nature is Resilient, Yet it Needs Your Help. Support Riveredge Today!

Dear Riveredge Family,

During uncertain times, nature remains a constant and reliable friend. From all of us at Riveredge, we hope this message finds you healthy and adjusting to life in this new, temporary “normal.”

We know that nature can help provide a respite from the uncertainty around us. And, right now, Riveredge, as a caregiver of nature, needs your help.

There are so many ways that these unprecedented realities are impacting, and will continue to impact, our families, communities, education systems, businesses, and the overall economy.

As many of you know, we’ve had to cancel events, programs, and field trips for the foreseeable future. As a non-profit organization, Riveredge relies on charitable donations as well as revenue from educational programs and events in order to support our mission. Without the option of hosting our beloved community events and programs as planned, the need for philanthropic support is more important now than at any time in the past decade (possibly longer).

Yet, we are working hard to ensure that community access to Riveredge’s 10 miles of trails and restorative benefits to our physical and mental health remain open and available. To do this, we need your help.

If you are financially able, we are asking you to consider a one-time gift to support Riveredge during these unprecedented times.

100% of your support will be used to continue the important, mission-driven work of Riveredge and keep the trails open. Please join us in continuing to connect families, schools, and communities to the benefits of the natural world around them. If we come together during times of uncertainty, we will come out on the other side stronger than ever before.

The Riveredge family has always been strong. From the beginning, Riveredge’s founders have been finding creative and innovative ways to bring the magic of this special place to so many people throughout the region, furthering the ripple effect, and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards. Nature is resilient and so is the Riveredge spirit!

Here at Riveredge, the maple sap has continued to flow, the spring flowers are continuing to emerge, and the birds are continuing to return from their far-away wintering grounds.

We invite your solidarity as fellow nature-lovers and caretakers of this special place.

In gratitude,

Jessica Jens,

Riveredge Executive Director

Natalie Dorrler

Riveredge Director of Development

 

 

Riveredge COVID-19 Update: Visitor’s Center Closed, Future Programs Cancelled, Trails Open

Dear Community,

Due to the increasing spread of COVID-19, directives from state and federal government, and the need for us all to work together to flatten the curve, Riveredge Nature Center’s Visitor Center, programming, events, and volunteer groups will be closed and cancelled until Tuesday, May 26.  As that date approaches, we will reassess to determine if operations may be reinstated.

If you need to contact a staff member, please visit our staff directory for emails and phone extensions. Voicemails will be forwarded to the staff’s email.

In these challenging times, we know that nature can help provide a respite from the uncertainty around us. Because of this, the Riveredge staff is working to ensure the continuation of our mission. We’re starting the #RiveredgeVirtualNaturalist video series, which you can view here, as well as on our Riveredge Facebook Page. Stay tuned to Riveredge’s social media accounts and email for opportunities to learn more about the natural world in your backyard, get creative outdoors with your family, and for technical help with improving your land management skills – all through the power of online communication.

The 10 miles of Riveredge trails will remain open from dawn until dusk, and we hope that you’ll come and enjoy them!  When you do, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Directions and trail maps are available on our website.
  • Printed trail maps are available at most trail heads.
  • Please follow Leave No Trace principles when hiking at Riveredge.
  • To protect the migratory and ground nesting birds, no dogs are allowed at Riveredge. Complete explanation and alternative local dog-friendly locations here.
  • Trail fees are $5/person or $15/family per day for non-members.
  • Trail access is free for members. Membership begins at only $40 per household for an entire year of access.
  • Families with a 4th grade student are eligible for a free family membership.
  • Built outhouses are available just southeast of the Visitor’s Center by the yurts and noted on the trail map. A port-a-john is also available in the west parking lot near Newburg.
  • It’s best to bring a full water bottle with you.
  • You can purchase Riveredge Maple Syrup and maple candies, Riveredge apparel, and other goodies through the Riveredge Nature Store, which are then picked up through curbside delivery. All purchases must be made online and can be picked up during our normal business hours (the Visitor’s Center will remain closed to the public). This is a great way to support Riveredge during this time!

As our friends at the Association of Nature Center Administrators shared, “…access to trails and open spaces are going to be critical to people at this time. They are havens, allowing for recreation and activity when people are discouraged from being in large crowds…

In fact, we’ve already begun hearing the croaking call of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead and the song-filled warblers won’t be far behind. Pretty soon you’ll begin to see the delicate blooms of spring ephemeral flowers along the trail, and the skunk cabbage has already begun to emerge! In this time of social distancing, we’re going to crave the health benefits offered by nature more than ever.

We know that this is a challenging time for all of us, yet by observing nature, we also know that we will overcome. We will work together and become a stronger Riveredge Family through the challenges we face today.

Keep Smiling & Get Outside,

Jessica Jens

Executive Director

Sugarin’ Day For Scouts, Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and Pancake Breakfast Canceled Due to COVID-19 Concerns

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has recommended canceling all non-essential gatherings of 250 people or more. With safety in mind, Riveredge Nature Center has canceled the March 14 Sugarin’ Day For Scouts, March 21 Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and April 4 Pancake Breakfast.

Just as with any program canceled by Riveredge, refunds will be issued to people who have pre-registered for the Scouts Day, Maple Sugarin’ Festival, and Pancake Breakfast.

At the present time, the Riveredge Visitor’s Center will remain open during regularly scheduled hours. All other Riveredge programs with smaller expected attendance are currently scheduled to take place as planned.

Riveredge trails will remain open sunup to sundown.

Our paramount concern is the health and safety of Riveredge members, volunteers, staff, and guests. Riveredge staff will continue to monitor this evolving situation and will update accordingly based on the most up-to-date information available.

 

Jessica Jens

Executive Director, Riveredge Nature Center

Managing ‘Rabbitat” – Rabbit Habitat – at Riveredge Nature Center

At Riveredge, we’re continually working to create a more robust habitat for native and migratory species. How can we best do that? Generally by making sure that we’ve planted the plants and trees that supply the sustenance and cover needed by wildlife. One species that generally doesn’t need much help is the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus). As the old adage goes, rabbits are pretty quick to procreate, and providing habitat for rabbits, or ‘rabbitat’ as the Riveredge Land Manager likes to call it, can have consequences for other plant and animal species across the property.

Ideal rabbitat is a small pile of branches and brush to hide for cover and near healthy trees and plants for rabbits to eat.

Generally, when safely cutting down a tree, the most time is spent surveying the way a tree is leans, the direction of the wind, where its heaviest branches exist, and other factors.

Rabbits have a voracious appetite, and can mow down crops of plants year-round, sometimes including uncommon species we’re working to proliferate throughout the property. As much as we might expect they wouldn’t affect trees standing tall in the forest, just a few inches from the ground rabbits can permanently injure a tree. Rabbits will nibble around the circumference of a tree, the term used for this behavior is “girdling.” Beavers are more well known for this practice, as a beaver gnawing into a tree is much more obvious. Rabbits, however, can have the same negative impact on individual trees but don’t provide the same ecosystem benefits beavers do.

In certain spaces across the property we’ll create rabbitat, while in others we’ll actively discourage it. One of the easiest ways to discourage rabbitat is to burn excess brush. Why wouldn’t we burn it in all circumstances? Some areas of the property wouldn’t respond as well to a fire, or it’s located near a habitat or location that isn’t very fire resilient. Buildings, in certain instances, for example.

Riveredge staff and volunteers work together on a prescribed burn of common brush rabbitat.

Part of our ongoing challenge is to manage and conserve these 379 acres of habitat in a way that benefits the most native and migratory species possible. Sometimes people will say, “Conserve it? What’s to conserve – it’s already a part of Riveredge!” A good parallel is to imagine a typical lawn. A person probably cuts their lawn once or twice a week in summertime. Now imagine your lawn is 379 acres of various forests, prairies, creeks, wetlands, ponds, and rising or lowering water along the river banks. That’s a lot of space to maintain and conserve. We’re continually exploring the most effective methods to provide habitat for vulnerable populations while working to thwart invasive species encroachment. Restoring and conserving the Riveredge property is indeed an ongoing project, and one in which we lovingly engage.

When taking down the trees in the above video, we left some rabbitat on the other side of our storage barn. Burning off all these branches and stumps near a 100-year-old wood barn – even surrounded by snow – wouldn’t be a smart plan. Hosting some rabbitat isn’t all bad, though. Small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels unintentionally provide sustenance for many of animals we enjoy watching in the wild, such as hawks, owls, eagles, and even foxes, coyotes, and weasels. To eradicate all rabbitat would force these charismatic raptors and mammals to go elsewhere for their prey. Additionally, these large branches have made beautiful habitat for other creatures spending time at Riveredge Nature Center…