Dane County announced plans to purchase a 160-acre plot of land in the Town of Springfield last week, to expand the existing Pheasant Branch Conservancy and combat area flooding.
It would be the largest land acquisition for conservation purposes in county history.
Making the announcement at a public press conference was Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, alongside members of the Acker family who have owned the property for generations.
“We’re here today to announce what will be the largest investment and acquisition in Dane County’s history,” Parisi said. “Working with the Acker family, Dane County is purchasing 160 acres of land located directly adjacent to the Pheasant Branch Conservancy.”
The parcel would cost the county approximately $9.9 million, more than half the $18 million set aside for flood-prevention efforts in the 2019 budget, and be added onto the current conservancy.
Natural vegetation would be restored and the site converted back into prairie land.
Friends of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, a volunteer organization comprised of more than 500 members, also took part in Thursday’s announcement at the Acker farm.
“This addition to the conservancy will bring so many benefits,” said Lloyd Eagan, co-president of the organization. “The area is going to provide additional recreational and environmental education opportunities, and we can expect positive benefits to spring from this property.”
Nature trails would allow visitors to hike and bike through the newly-expanded conservancy, with wildlife-viewing areas designated for the observation of native plants and animals.
Such trails would add onto the existing 3.3-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail at the conservancy.
“We know that we draw people from around the county and beyond here to hike in these areas,” said Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan. “And to see this land added to the conservancy is really gratifying.”
The extra land could mitigate some of the problems caused by torrential rain as well.
It has been estimated that the space will provide more than 2.6 million gallons of water storage, offering flood relief to the community while reducing runoff from its surrounding farmland.
“Once we purchase this (land),” Parisi said, “we’ll be able to preserve it in a way that not only preserves the rural character but helps us in our runoff efforts…With that, we’ll see about 550 fewer pounds of phosphorous runoff annually going into our lake system.”
According to one calculation, that amount of phosphorous could produce more than a quarter million pounds of algae. If correct, the new purchase would result in decreased lake pollution.
“It’s part of the solution,” Parisi said, “and it’s an integral piece that we need to have.”
A resolution regarding the land acquisition was introduced at the May 16 County Board meeting, and was referred to committee.