Mill House Native Plant Preserve

The Geneva Lake Conservancy transformed its approximately one acre of grounds at its Fontana headquarters into an educational Native Plant Preserve that is open to the public.

The main trail winds through a variety of native landscapes on the Mill House grounds and wanders along a stream and through several properties owned by the Village of Fontana before connecting with the main trail at the Hildebrand Nature Conservancy.

Along the main trail is a pollinator garden, rain garden, fern garden, sloped garden, oak grove with a variety of oak species, as well as a bird sanctuary. Each garden will have an educational sign and the majority of plants used in each garden will be identified.

The granite trail with steel edges begins at the Mill House entrance where an existing pollinator garden has been enlarged. It then passes a rain garden and prairie area before it reaches an oak grove where red, white, swampy white, black and bur oak trees have been planted.

The steep bank along Main Road will be planted with native plants whose long roots filter and slow down water.

The trail then wanders through a native ostrich fern garden and past a 150-year-old native Silver Maple before entering the bird sanctuary, which features Juneberry, Hop Tree, Ninebark and Blackhaw Viburnum, which are all native shrubs.

The trail then leads through the Hildebrand Nature Conservancy, an 11.5-acre nature preserve owned by the Village of Fontana and protected by a conservation easement held by the Geneva Lake Conservancy. Along the trail is a trout stream known as Van Slyke Creek that feeds Geneva Lake and exemplifies the cold, clear rocky bottom stream that support brown and brook trout.

The design for the project was provided by Landscapes of Place owned by Nancy Aten, a landscape architect, and Dan Collins, program manager, who work with many land trusts and conservation organizations in Wisconsin to restore native landscapes. The landscape design was funded by a generous grant from former Conservancy Board Member John Notz.

The Conservancy staff and many volunteers have been involved in planting the initial gardens.