A lot has happened in Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area this year with educational programs and there’s more to come with a 2021 hiking event celebrating the marsh.

Groundswell Conservancy Executive Director Jim Welsh said his personal favorite event of this year was Marsh Madness.

“It is a kids-teaching-kids spectacular that takes place every fall at Sun Prairie’s Patrick Marsh,” Welsh said. “You cannot top Marsh Madness for the level of energy and enthusiasm it generates.

Vince Brandl, a seventh-grade teacher at Patrick Marsh Middle School led the charge.

During Marsh Madness, Sun Prairie elementary school students made art out of natural materials, learned how prairie soils prevent erosion, explored the inside of a bee hive, watched a saw mill in operation, and more.

“Groundswell and our partners have set the stage for Marsh Madness by preserving and managing the prairie and savanna habitat and taking care of the trail system, signs, and parking lots at Patrick Marsh. It is an intriguing and inviting place for the community to explore nature and enjoy being outside,” Welsh added. noting that Marsh Madness couldn’t be held this fall due to the pandemic.

“But let’s hope it comes roaring back next fall,” Welsh added. “It is a perfect way to foster the conservation heroes of the future.”

Groundswell Conservancy received a grant through the John C. Bock Foundation to restore more wildlife habitat at Patrick Marsh. The funds will be used to improve the oak savanna around the kettle pond on the west side of the marsh.

The Conservancy’s long term goal is to create a seamless transition from prairie to oak savanna at Patrick Marsh, according to Welsh.

“To do this, we are removing invasive trees and shrubs like honeysuckle, buckthorn, and boxelder that stand in the way,” Welsh wrote in the Conservancy’s annual report for 2019-20.

“Our monthly volunteers have been collecting more prairie seed and cutting more brush. Our oak savanna habitat around the kettle pond is really starting to open up. The oaks are now able to stretch out their limbs,” Welsh added.

Seeds that Conservancy volunteers have collected will be planted in the area restored with the John C. Bock Foundation grant.

“Patrick Marsh is a much better place because of our volunteers,” Welsh said.

Groundswell Conservancy Conservationist BJ Byers has created a new monthly email that is growing in popularity. The emails are based on “phenology” or nature’s calendar.

Each month, Byers writes about some of the plants, insects, or wildlife that you might encounter during the month. Most of his photos are taken at Patrick Marsh and Westport Prairie. To sign up to receive Byers’ monthly emails, send an email to liz@groundswellwisconsin.org.

Groundswell Conservancy will host two events during the winter to celebrate conservation efforts:

Virtual Thank You Party — From 4-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 8, Groundswell staffers will share stories and participants will have a chance to win door prizes. RSVP online at groundswellwisconsin.org/thankyouparty for the Zoom link.

Self-Guided Story Hike at Patrick Marsh — During February 2021, marsh supporters are invited to explore a story in a new way as they hike the pages of a children’s book by local author Dineo Dowd or ponder winter poems at Patrick Marsh on the east side of Sun Prairie. The self-guided hike is family-friendly and open to all; no registration is required.

For more information about Groundswell Conservancy, go online to groundswellwisconsin.org .

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