Token Creek Conservancy November 2021

The Village of Windsor is exploring options for creating a “Friends of Token Creek Conservancy” group to help ensure the health of this public natural area, including stream and springs that contribute to the Yahara River and ultimately Madison’s Lake Mendota.

The Village of Windsor is exploring options to create a “Friends of Token Creek Conservancy” group to help fill the gaps between the village’s parks management and sporadic volunteer efforts.

At the board’s Nov. 18 meeting Village President Bob Wipperfurth brought an item from the Token Creek Conservancy Committee, of which he joined at the beginning of the month among a handful committee appointments across the board following the exit of Trustee Donald Madelung.

Wipperfurth discussed a proposal for the board to support the creation of a “Friends of the Token Creek Conservancy” organization to help with forest and water management in the 190-acre public natural space. Although coming shortly after Wipperfurth’s arrival on the board, the concept dates back to a recommendation that was part of Token Creek Conservancy’s 2012 Master Plan and identified as a priority by the contractor Good Oak, which performs ecological services for the village in Token Creek Conservancy.

“I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like yet, but I think that clearly there’s a need for it and hopefully we can get enough area residents to commit to helping the conservancy,” Wipperfurth said in a later interview. “The gap has been widening lately and especially with COVID...through the years we’ve had quite a bit of help--we’ve had church groups, we’ve had Boy Scouts, we’ve had Eagle Scout projects--so some of these groups come and gone, but we’re trying to expand upon that and build up a little bit more momentum.”

The Token Creek Conservancy Committee has been active, according to Wipperfurth, but more work is needed on the ground.

A “friends” group would be helpful in the conservancy with brush clearing, invasive specie control, and algae removal, and outside the conservancy in fundraising, outreach, event planning and public education.

The village has been particularly active in addressing land management in recent months, with the full-time hiring of a parks and conservancy manager. However, the friends group initiative has been separate from the expectations involving that hire.

“We’re trying to set clear expectations of what Chad [Courtier, Parks and Conservancy Manager] can do versus the reality of the number of projects that should be done or could be done,” said Wipperfurth. “But I think clearly with Chad we may have the opportunity to have him be the focal point of this friends group and working alongside the Token Creek Conservancy Committee along with the village board to try to drive some momentum.”

In the Nov. 18 meeting attorney William Cole highlighted that in the discussions of how this group would function, that if it were founded by the board, it would likely be a government body and thus subject to rules of open meetings and open records, among the other restrictions and requirements.

Friends groups vary widely in organizational structure and overall scope from the Friends of the MacKenzie Center or Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy, to Milwaukee County’s friends group that works with over 50 smaller sub-groups.

Among the options it is not unheard-of for a municipal body to be instrumental in the creation of a group and then, essentially, “setting it free” to be an unaffiliated nonprofit group.

This was roughly the model for Middleton Area Public Lands Endowment (MAPLE), which was started through the City of Middleton in 2015, according to Middleton Director of Parks and Recreation Matt Amundson.

Since the group has been up and off the ground, according to Amundson, one of the ongoing challenges is inherent in endowment fundraising versus other kinds of fundraising. Whereas other fundraising efforts often result in “a shiny new thing” at the end, endowment fundraising has a goal of supporting an operating budget, which provides a less immediately tangible outcome.

This was a point on which there is agreement in Windsor, as Village Administrator pointed out in the meeting, “starting a friends group is an undertaking.”

At this point the project remains mostly hypothetical with all options available, and to be discussed with Token Creek Conservancy’s various supporters, according to Wipperfurth.

“It could be that there are members of the Token Creek Conservancy that are instrumental in starting the ‘friends’ group,” said Wipperfurth. “They might enjoy that more than being on the committee; we don’t know that yet. But clearly we need people who are familiar with the area and want to see it further succeed.”

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