Greenwood Elementary Service Day 2023: Randy Arnold
What started back in October of last year with six workdays of volunteers cutting buckthorn, honeysuckle, and box elders at a site on Quarry Rd, wrapped up last Friday when 75 students, 15 parent volunteers and the teaching staff of those 3rd graders at Greenwood Elementary School in River Falls showed up at 9:30 in the morning. Their aim was to drag all of the slash from those workdays and place it on three bonfires that had been started about 30 minutes before their arrival.
The volunteers present helping to start the fires and watch over the kids to maintain safety were Jim Tatzel, Dave Gregg, Tom Anderson, David Brockway, Tom Schnadt, Pat Sexton, Dave Kozlovsky and myself. Soon two busloads of students arrived. I gave a brief talk to the Greenwood entourage about safety precautions we asked them to follow.
Half of the students returned to the bus and headed further upstream for a nature walk led by one of their teachers while the other half put on safety glasses and began hauling brush to the two bonfires. I had a gas driven water pump ready as a safety precaution and, on several occasions, I did fire up the pump and pour a little water on one of the bonfires to keep the flames from getting too high. The weather on the days leading up to the event could not have been better, with several days of rain and below average temperatures keeping the fire danger relatively low. This event had been originally scheduled for back in December and then again in early January but was postponed due to bitterly cold temps and a following blizzard. After an hour of moving brush to the bonfires, kids who had been on the nature walk returned and switched places with their classmates. A third bonfire was started just prior to the changeover and, the second wave of kids made short work of the brush which remained.
This is the third time that this event has been held. Chapter member and Greenwood 3rd grade teacher Steve Papp was the driving force behind the creation of this event and the 3rd graders at his school are also participants in the TIC program. This event provides a wonderful opportunity for the kids to connect with and realize how a healthy stream corridor is so important to the survival of trout. In past years Kasey Yallaly and Marty Engel have assisted by leading the kids on the nature walk portion. Both were unavailable this year so the teaching staff took it upon themselves to fill that void. Thank you to all who participated and I look forward to many more years of this very successful program.
The Kiap-TU-Wish “work season” aligns with our fiscal year which spans April 1st to March 31st. Our work consisted of tree planting, seeding/mulching, stream shocking, and tree and brush removal. Additional tasks for which I recorded volunteer hours included installation of bluebird nest boxes, opening and cleaning them in the fall, and closing them up again in the spring. Time spent watering trees and shrubs that were planted on the new Cady Creek restoration was also logged. A total of 31 volunteer workdays this past year consisted of, 25 brush/tree removal days, 3 seeding/mulching days, 2 stream shocking days, and 1 day dedicated to tree planting. As you might imagine, the bulk of our time was spent removing trees and brush from stream corridors and accounted for just over 1,400 of the total 1,573 habitat volunteer hours.
Total habitat volunteer hours are down from several years ago when totals reached or exceeded 3,000 hours. My biggest disappointment as our volunteer coordinator is the low turnout for brush and tree removal workdays. Of the 283 individuals who are currently on the MailChimp list for receiving workday notices, only 56 turned out at any one time over the season to help with our work.
Our clearing operations began in October at the close of the inland fishing season. We cleared box elders, buckthorn, and honeysuckle from the Quarry Road site just upstream of the Hwy 35 bridge and had plans to involve the Greenwood Elementary 3rd graders as a part of their service learning project by providing an opportunity to help burn all of the slash. A blizzard on the scheduled burn day resulted in deep snow cover which lasted throughout the winter and forced us to postpone the event until April 21st of this year.
Starting in early December, we moved our workdays to Cady Creek and at the direction of Kasey Yallaly (WDNR) began clearing box elders and other invasives from the stream corridor between the upper two parking lots on 50th Street. This will help facilitate periodic mowing and allow for easier stream access. Between December 2022 and March 2023, we spent 17 days at this site logging in over 1,100 hours during that period. This particular stretch of Cady had undergone streambank restoration back in the late 1990s and some of the box elder trees along that stretch had trunks over 20” in diameter plus we cleared and removed a number of trees that had fallen into the creek.
I would like to recognize the efforts of a number of volunteers who turned out time and time again to help with the workdays, these include: John Skelton 21 workdays, Dave Gregg 18 workdays, Jim Tatzel 17 workdays, Loren Haas and Trish Hannah 13 workdays, Jeff Dahl 11 workdays, Jim Sackrison 8 workdays, James Patterson and Steve Cox 7 workdays, Matt Janquart and Greg Olson 6 workdays, and John Kaplan, Ted Higman, Don Fritz, Dave Kozlovsky and Jeff Himes 5 workdays. I dare say that most of those listed above have more than a few grey hairs on their heads and I hope that in looking to future projects an influx of youth would certainly enhance our habitat efforts.
Box elders, buckthorn and honeysuckle are growing on our easements faster than we can cut them down. The WDNR no longer has the funds or manpower to handle any of this work and it depends on our chapter to step up to the plate each year to do what we can to keep the easements and restorations within our chapter area from becoming overgrown and unfishable.
I took on the job of volunteer coordinator some 12-15 years ago when I was still in my 50’s and my body was easily up to the task. Despite turning 70 in January, I still hope to continue leading workdays for another 10 years. I would, however, appreciate some more participation from more of the individuals who are listed in our pool of volunteers.
This fall we will continue to hold workdays throughout the brushing season from Oct. 15th when the fishing season closes, until such time in the spring when we can no longer burn the slash from the removed trees and brush. It’s my hope that we can return to earlier times when 25 or more volunteers turned out on a regular basis with occasional workdays consisting of 30 or more.
I intend to start a new volunteer list before the beginning of the next brushing season. The list will be called “Brushing Volunteers” and it is my hope that if you request to be on the list you will do so with the intent of participating in our workdays on a regular basis. Knowing that we have a committed list of volunteers is important when assessing the time and effort necessary for each project as I continue to work with Kasey and the Kiap-TU-Wish board to determine what future habitat projects.
Our first project of the field season was on Gilbert Creek in Dunn County. The project is located within Gilbert Creek Fisheries Area and on Gene Holte’s easement and is 1,300 feet in length. This project is in cooperation with the Clear Waters Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Dunn County Fish and Game Assn, and Dunn County. This project was a continuation of past 3 years of trout habitat projects along this section of Gilbert Creek. Gilbert creek is a Brook trout reserve stream that has had numerous habitat projects completed on it and this newly acquired easement will allow us to tie in many years of habitat work together. It is a highly visible section, just off HWY 29 which will allow the public to safely park off the busy Hwy in a 75×50 parking lot. Work started on 5/9/22 and project was complete on 5/24/22. We created 1 rock island, 3 spawning riffles, 98 root wads and used 3,025 tons of rock which comes out to 2.3 tons per stream foot.
Our second project of the year was on Sand Creek in northeast Dunn County. This is a highly visible project that enhanced habitat and access to the stream in the park of the town of Sand Creek. It is now a great spot for senior citizens and the youth to fish due to the location and access from a parking area with the potential of catching a trophy brown trout. We partnered with ClearWaters TU, and the Town of Sand Creek. Work started on 5/25/22 and project was complete on 6/15/22. Total distance is 650 feet. We installed 8 LUNKERS, 1 plunge pool, 5 riffles and 1 rock v weir and hauled in 440 tons of black dirt, used 1,325 tons of shot rock and 125 bales of straw. We removed all old, unstable and unsafe trees within the park and will plant more trees in the near future.
Our next project was on the Trimbelle River-Halvorson easement. This project was partnered with KiapTUwish Trout Unlimited. We completed 3,200 feet with potential for more stream footage downstream on the same landowner’s property/easement. Native species such as Ash, Oak and Maple will be left standing to provide some shade, but this site is a horse pasture with very short turf grass. The project started on 6/20/22 and we finished on 8/16/22. We installed 22 riffles, 41 root wads, created 5 islands, 5 back water refuges, 2 ERO’s, 5 rock v weirs and 1 cross log while also adding too many to count mid-stream boulders and boulder clusters. We used 7,500 tons of shot rock @ $7.98/ton which comes out to 2.34 tons per stream foot and 400 bales of straw @ $8.00/bale and 900 pounds of Orchard grass.
The final project of the field season took place on the headwaters of Gilbert creek, which is owned by the State. We completed 1,550 feet with 1,550 more feet to be finished next field season. We started 8/17/22 and we finished up for the year on 9/15/22. Thirty-six root wads, 3 ERO’s, 16 riffles and 3 backwater refuges were installed. This project site will make for great spawning areas for Brook trout once we are able to flush out the fine sediment and create more spawning riffles.
Volunteers Needed to Staff Youth Game Fair on Sept.10
For the past 6-7 years, our chapter has been participating in the Peasants Forever Youth Game Fair. Boys and girls ages 12-16 have the opportunity to tie a fly, get a lesson in fly casting and, they have the opportunity to catch a sunfish or bass in the lake at the club. The event goes from 9:00-3:00 pm. You don’t need to spend the entire day there but, if you can spend a few hours to help out mentoring kids down at the lake, helping to teach fly casting, helping a youth tie a foam panfish fly, or even man our booth to talk about the importance of the work our chapter does, your help would be appreciated. Currently we have 5 volunteers and could use another 4-5. Refreshments including coffee, soda and water are provided as well as a meal for all participants in the event. Please email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help out at this event.
The Chapter had a booth at the Fly-Fishing Expo in St. Paul which was held after a two-year hiatus from Covid. It was great seeing familiar and new faces with and interest in our activities.
At our April meeting WI DNR Habitat Specialist, Nate Anderson gave a recap on the WDNR projects of 2021 along with project update for 2022 along with news on easements. Senior Fisheries Biologist, Kasey gave a presentation titled “2021 Large Stream Survey and Rush River Creel Survey Results.” In May we had our last chapter meeting before our summer break. The meeting was held at Rush River Brewing with Steve’s Pizza provided by the chapter. Chapter awards were presented with a lot of catching up with friends and tall fish tales.
We finished off the winter ‘brushing season’ with a couple of final workdays in April. The snow cover was totally gone but a couple of portable pumps and some garden hose, we were able to wet things down enough to negate the fire danger while continuing to burn the slash from the trees and brush we were cutting. A total of 66 volunteers assisted over the course of the season with 34 individuals attending more than one workday. At our May chapter meeting held at Rush River Brewing, 7 individuals were awarded a gift certificate for having participated in 10 or more of the brushing days. John Skelton topped the list by attending 24 workdays followed closely by Jim Tatzel with 23. The others who filled out the list were Dave Gregg, Dave Kozlovsky, Tom Anderson, Steve Cox and Trish Hannah. With the lack of snow cover and the late arrival of spring, the ground remained frozen till the first week of April when Randy Arnold was able to get out in the field and drive in fence posts to install another 44 bluebird nest boxes. Sites getting the boxes were the new restoration on Cady Creek just downstream of the Cty Rd. P bridge, Gilbert Creek downstream of the Hwy 29 bridge, the South Fork of the Kinni at the Hwy 29 easement, and at the county park on the Trimbelle just downstream of Hwy 10. A workday was held just this past Tuesday where 8 volunteers joined Randy to assist with planting trees and shrubs at the new Cady Creek restoration. Those helping were Don Fritz, Jim Tatzel, Dan Donahue, Charlie Schlatter, Michel Bevis, Steve Wardell.
Chapter volunteers Ken and Missie Hanson, Matt Janquart and family along with Dean Hansen braved a cold Earth Day April 26th in River Falls to staff our chapters booth at the event. Turnout was good considering the unfavorable weather.
The Kiap TU Wish Chapter staffed one of three stations related to stream conservation as part of Rocky Branch Elementary’s annual “Eco-Week” celebration. Eco-Week is a full week of nature appreciation, outdoor service learning, and environmental education for all their students. The 4th grade students, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, participated in an electroshocking of a local tributary. Students observed four species of fish as they were collected, measured, weighed, and safely returned to the water. Students from the Renaissance Charter Academy’s “Wisconsin Waterways” high school course were also able to participate in the activity. Pairs of students captured invertebrates using D nets. Other students identified insects from charts and with the help of Dean Hansen and Kiap TU Wish members Dan Wilcox, Mark Peerenboom and Tom Schnadt. KIAP helped three Trout in the Classroom programs release their trout in Willow River State Park this May. Along with the trout release, other activities included stream bug capture/identification and fly-casting lessons. A great time was had by all. Volunteers included: Dean Hansen, John Ulman, Tom Schnadt, Ken Hanson, Missie Hanson, Patrick Sexton, Mark Peerenboom, Molly Barritt, and Greg Olson
Kiap TU Wish conducted our first STREAM Girls program on May 21st. The Ellsworth Rod and Gun Club was the host and reports were fantastic. A separate story can be found in this issue of Wisconsin Trout
Twenty-three workdays were held this past season. Volunteers worked at clearing two different sites on the upper Kinni — upstream of the DNR handicap fishing pier parking lot on River Drive and upstream and downstream of the DNR parking lot on Hwy 65 just downstream from Liberty Road.
At the River Drive site, we cleared box elder, honeysuckle, and some monster old-growth buckthorn, with trunks on some trees exceeding ten inches in diameter. One-quarter mile of stream bank was cleared on both sides over a span of of 16 workdays, which included one mid-week workday with the third-grade class from Greenwood Elementary in River Falls, their instructors, and a dozen parent chaperones joining in to help drag and stack tree-cut limbs onto a huge bonfire. Former DNR wildlife biologist Marty Engel joined us for this event and took the students streamside to teach them a little bit about entemology by showing them some of the aquatic bugs living in the stream.
The final seven workdays this season were spent clearing out a tangle of dead downed trees along with box elder, buckthorn, and a thicket of silver maple saplings which were growing far too close together.
Between the two sites, nearly 1,600 hours of volunteer time was recorded. Not counting the Greenwood event, 66 volunteers participated in the work, and 34 of those individuals attended workdays more than once. Eight volunteers are deserving of special recognition for attending multiple work days: John Skelton, 22 days; Jim Tatzel, 21; Dave Gregg, 16, Tom Anderson, 15; Trish Hannah, 11; Steve Cox, 10; Dave Kozlovsk,y 10; and Paul Mahler, 6.
The DNR no longer has a budget for doing maintenance work on the multiple miles of easements existing on streams within our chapter area. I would like to say that we are making a dent, but the fact is that brush and buckthorn are growing faster than we are able to control it. I do wish that more members of the chapter would turn out for workdays to help out with this cause.
This season, I had as few as three volunteers turn out for one workday and as many as 18 on two occasions. In years past, I can recall workdays with over 30 volunteers. I hope that more of you will make it a point to turn out to help with maintenance work during the 2022–2023 winter season.
Nate and his crew will be restoring a section of the lower Trimbelle at the Halvorson easement this summer. You can probably expect to see an announcement for 2–3 seeding/mulching volunteer opportunities there. In addition, I will post for the usual volunteers to help Kasey and her crew with their stream shocking survey work on larger waters like the Rush, Kinni, Willow, EauGalle, and Trimbelle.
Pheasants Forever has signed on to assume maintenance on the South Fork of the Kinni. Grant funding enabled their volunteers to cut the massive stands of sand bar willows which had taken over many areas there. They also cut a lot of box elder trees and did herbicide treatment on all of the cut stumps to prevent further growth.