The Treasures of Oz is a partnership of organizations
and individuals who bring together..... Read More
Stand closely on the earth. Let its energy rise through you.
Breathe deeply the crisp cooling air and sense the gentle decay of a summer’s past.
Listen to the leaves, to the birds and the last crickets of the season.
Then let the colors take you away to where only beauty matters.
The brightest colors of autumn happen when dry, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights. The season is here and it is time to plan for those memorable October walks that fill your senses with the colors, smells and sounds of a season’s passing. There are few places in Ozaukee that are not beautiful in autumn, but two of the best are also two of our hidden treasures.
Each of these two treasures is more than beautiful in itself any day of the year, but their plentiful sugar maples provide forest canopies that are absolutely stunning. On a blue-sky day, the stunning factor doubles. So where are they?
In an informal survey of “places in Ozaukee residents have heard about before,” Kurtz Woods is at the bottom of the list. Who would expect to go looking for remnants of the deep forests that characterized Ozaukee County in pre-settlement times between two houses in a suburban area?
No one. That’s right. No one. But now you will.
What is this about Ozaukee County being a "Bird City" and why are so many Ozaukee municipalities following suit?
The city of Mequon, the Town of Grafton, the City of Port Washington and our neighboring Village of Newburg have all become part of Bird City Wisconsin in the past four years.
Maybe it is because they understand that the more species of birds an area has, the higher the property values will be. An area that has many bird species needs to have a diverse collection of trees, shrubs and other growing things. Prospective home buyers as well as birds love that diversity of plants and a 2011 study in Lubbock Texas indicated that homes with more than one species of less-than-common birds in the area sold, on average, for about $32,000.00 more than comparable homes without.
Perhaps Bird Cities understand that birds are the indicators of a healthy environment and they are willing to take extra steps to improve the ecological health of their community. The birds are daily reminders that a community has a healthy eco-system, something that more and more people are seeking. The Bird City WI website sums it up well. "Like the proverbial canaries in a coal mine, birds serve as indicators of the ecological health of our planet. Because of their rapid metabolism and wide geographic distribution, birds provide early warning to us of changes in the environment and potentially harmful biological conditions. Robust, diverse bird populations reflect the underlying health of the ecosystem in which they – and we – live. Since we share our planet with all other species, what happens to birds can happen to us."
Treasures of Oz in collaboration with Samantha Gehl of Solutions 101 LLC
Photos courtesy of Solutions 101 LLC
Big changes are happening to a little creek that runs through the heart of the Town of Grafton and what was once the Ulao Settlement.
Once upon a time Ulao Creek's headwaters bubbled up in the Ulao Swamp beginning in an area that is now covered by the WeEnergies fly ash dump. Watercress grew in abundance along the banks. Children swam and people fished in this clear and meandering stream. Wildlife was diverse and abundant.
Then, in the early 1900's, things began to change. Much of this lovely creek was channeled for progress - mostly for the railroad. Later, in the 1950's, Dutch Elm Disease spread through the swamp and many stately trees along the bank fell into and over the creek, bringing tons of debris down with them. In the years following, flooding increased and the need to protect farm fields brought local residents together. The Kaul, Hoppe and Helms families and other creek-side landowners joined forces to create The Ulao Creek Partnership with a mission to improve the creek and adjacent impacted land.
Over the years, The Ulao Creek Partnership, with much support from Ozaukee County, has made vast improvements to the creek, clearing the channel, planting trees for flood control and removing invasive vegetation. The creek, however, has remained confined in its dug channel along the side of the railroad tracks, and that is how most everyone thought it would always be.
But then something very surprising happened!
2014 was a very good year for Treasures of Oz!
We had somewhere between 1305 and 388 participants - we don’t really know because we do know that some folks go to just one site and some others go to every site and and many come to Forest Beach along the way, often for the food, the music, the exhibits, the silent auction and the raffle. 1305 is the number of people who were counted at each site. 388 is the number counted at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve.
We do know that smiles were everywhere and positive comments floated through the air until the last of the take-down crew departed in the evening.
Our site numbers are below. We love these numbers because we know lots of people are coming to the event but the numbers are small enough that everyone can ask questions and have real discussions at the sites. We want Treasures of Oz to be interactive so everyone can get connected to Ozaukee environment and we think our teams are wonderful links bringing visitors into the world of natural Ozaukee.
Trinity Creek 139 Visitors, even residents of southern Mequon, were really surprised and delighted to discover Trinity Creek Wetland Habitat right in the middle of an industrial area off County Line Road.
Mee-Kwon 179 We were delighted to have a surprise additional docent, Andrew Struck. Andrew is recovering from a serious sports injury and surgery. We did not expect to see him for weeks, but he is key organizer for this event and found a way to get to Mee Kwon, crutches and all.
Cedarburg Environmental Study Area 121 The ants were a huge draw! Docents, Kate and Tom, did not think anyone would care about ants. They were happily shocked! Visitors really were interested. Kate found ants tending their herds of aphids on some dogwood and another group tending their leaf-hoppers. What a cool opportunity to see what was being talked about in action.
CESA was armed with mosquito spray and a screened tent, as the woods and water can make for a buggy habitat.. The mosquitos boycotted the site for the most part, and we are thankful to them for that.
Pleasant Valley 180 Many thanks to the Ozaukee Mountain Bikers and Riveredge Nature Center naturalists for working with Treasures of Oz to showcase this Cedarburg gem.
Lions Den 235 - it was a long walk to the natural area ravine and beach, almost a mile. Look how many people made the hike! No lions were sighted on Saturday. Visitors always ask why it is called Lion's Den. Are there lions there? Years ago local residents reported seeing "lions" there, most likely bobcats. Recently a mountain lion was seen in Sheboygan County. Interesting. You never know.
Belgium 63 Serious thanks to US Fish & Wildlife experts, Jim Lutes and Bruce Luebke for traveling all the way to Ozaukee to share their expertise with visitors.
Forest Beach 388 Forest Beach had it all - the migratory preserve and the Celebration. A large flock of pelicans came down on the lake just north of the preserve mid-day. Guess they heard about Treasures of Oz.
Oops. Can you help? The coordinator (me) forgot to give the raffle team the surveys this year - can you believe it? (you don’t have to answer that.)
Well, it is true, so we don’t have the information we would like to have - like zip codes to see where people came from, ages (we were hoping to see more children this year) and the the two really important things: "comments/suggestions" and "how people learned about Treasures of Oz."
Any chance you could help here? See the comment section below? You can sign in using one of the social media links or just write your comment and you will see that you can post as a guest - it is that easy. Let us know where you are from, if you met anyone from another county at the event, or another state or nation.
Let us know where you heard about Treasures of Oz - we would love to know what really works in terms of our advertising (since we have no big agency or big budget to do this.) Thank you in advance!
This report will expand as people share their stories! Stay tuned.