The Geneva Lake Conservancy has purchased a 77-acre parcel on Sugar Creek in the Town of Lafayette that will be open to the public for hiking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hunting and other recreational uses
beginning this summer.
The property will offer a half mile hike to a rare oak opening, as well as opportunities to walk and fish along Sugar Creek, which is designated as a Class II Trout Stream.
Located on Highway ES east of Highway 12, the property was purchased with a $90,000 grant from the Knowles Nelson Stewardship program of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, as well as a $50,000 grant from Ducks Unlimited and funding from private donations.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to open this beautiful parcel along Sugar Creek to the public,” said Kevin Brunner, chair of the Geneva Lake Conservancy’s Land Protection Committee. “It will offer a variety of recreational activities, as well as protect habitat for wildlife.”
Sugar Creek contains several species of concern, including the least darter, a small fish. The wetlands on the property also provide important habitat for ducks and other waterfowl. The purchase will preserve a buffer zone along the creek that will protect the waterway from agricultural runoff.
The property is identified by the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission as a natural area of local significance that should be preserved, Brunner said.
“The Conservancy holds a conservation easement on another property along the creek known as the Sugar Creek Preserve,” said Dennis Jordan, Conservancy chairman. “The purchase of this property will allow us to begin to form a protected stream corridor and we will be talking with other landowners along Sugar Creek who may be interested in placing conservation easements along their streambanks.”
This is the first time in its 40-year history that the Conservancy has used Knowles Nelson Stewardship funding to purchase land.
The new property also has historic value. It was along Sugar Creek that the Potawatomi tribe stopped to make more than 1,000 pounds of maple sugar before journeying to other camping grounds in the area, according to records in the Lake Geneva Library.
In addition to the funding for the Sugar Creek property, the Conservancy also was awarded another $160,000 grant from the Knowles Nelson program to purchase a second property in Walworth County that it will be raising matching funds for in 2018, said Karen Yancey, GLC’s Executive Director.
“We want to thank all of the private donors who contributed to our new Land Acquisitio
n Fund this year,” she said. “As Walworth County grows, it is so important to preserve land with high scenic and conservation value for wildlife habitat and public use.”
Private funding for the Hansen Preserve was made possible by donations from the following Conservancy
supporters: Diane Beu, Charles and Dianna Colman, Chuck and Vicki Ebeling, Al Hermansen and Dorothy Sullivan, Dennis and Diane Jordan, John K. Notz, Jr., Wendy Perks Fisher, the Robert and Patricia Moore Foundation, Peter and Julee Scherrer, and Bill and Barbara Turner. The purchase brings the total number of acres protected by the Conservancy to 2035.
The Conservancy also wants to thank Russell and Cheryl Hansen, the former owners of the property, who worked with the Conservancy throughout 2017 to meet the grant requirements for purchasing the property, Yancey said.
The new Conservancy property will be known as the Hansen Preserve. It is expected to open in July, 2018 and will be marked by a sign along Highway ES.