We have been getting many questions about what the conservation board staff could possibly be doing during this time of pandemic shutdowns (aka when school students are not flooding the nature area this spring and cabins and campgrounds are closed). So we thought this would be a good opportunity to remind you of some of the many conservation activities we engage in that do not involve direct contact with our community members. These are things that are done year-round and somewhat behind the scenes – hidden unless you happen upon the staff where they are working that day.

But first, let us clear up one misconception that has been swirling around. Currently all of our facilities – nature center, shelters, cabins, campground and restrooms – are closed to the public. The trails remain open for hiking, and the ponds are available for fishing. So feel free to come out for a hike or to do some fishing. Post some pictures on our Facebook page so we can see how you are using natural areas to keep some peace of mind during a trying time. We do hope the trails will get some drying time soon so we can open them to horseback riding and bicycles as well.

That leads us into what our staff could possibly be doing during this time to stay busy. The conservation/land management staff have the job of up-keeping all 12 of our natural areas, so there is never a lack of work for them to do. This spring, they have been able to get some prescribed burns done in the prairies and woodlands at many of our areas between rain and snow events. If you have been out to these areas, this is a noticeable difference. Prescribed burns clear old growth and leaf litter, helping to set back some woody invasive species and clear the way for new growth of desirable and native species in the spring.

The forestry mower and chainsaws have gotten their fair share of use this early spring as well. Dead trees have been downed, branches have been cut from over some trails, and forest understory clearing has been done. This will all lead to better growth of desirable plants on the forest floor and better trail conditions for our visitors. There is the constant, year-round work of weekly park checks (aka cleaning up trash from parking lots and the like), upkeep of facilities, animal care, website editing and updates, answering phone calls and e-mails, and much more as well.

This is also the time of year when trails need to be up kept and mowed. Equipment always needs to be worked on and fixed. All the staff has also been involved in some changes taking place in the nature center. Soon there will be a big new exhibit in the old library room of the nature center, and that means many of the displays needed to be moved around. We are excited for this exhibit, and we will definitely let you know when it is in. A new childrens area – complete with a puppet theater and reading nook – is being crafted as well. As soon as some restrictions are lifted, our staff will be picking up a travelling/temporary snake display to be placed in the nature center this summer.

What are we doing to keep you engaged and educate you during this time of social separation? We are producing weekly educational videos and posting them on our Facebook page. If you have not checked them out, you should. Frank Boyer – WCCB Natural Resource Manager – has the difficult job of editing out all of Annettes mistakes and making the videos look and sound good for your enjoyment.

We have been facilitating the Great 2020 Toilet Paper Hunt as well. Paul Totten – WCCB Conservation Technician – has written some amazing clues that some of you have followed very well to find the hidden toilet paper. A new hunt will begin this week!! If you have not yet participated, now is your chance. Let us know you are participating by posting a selfie of your search on our Facebook page. Even if you don’t find it, we want to know you are out enjoying our natural areas in some way. Plus a post showing you looking for the GRoTP will get you entered into a drawing for a separate prize.

While we cannot let you into our buildings at this time, we do hope you get outdoors, and don’t hesitate to give us a call with questions. If we are out of the office, leave a message, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. We will never run out of things to do to better the environment for wildlife or make your visits to our areas more enjoyable.

Nature calms and inspires. Get outdoors, take a walk, breath in the fresh air, and enjoy a little solitude in a beautiful place. We look forward to the day we get to welcome you back with open doors.