Project has visitors flocking to park

Ongoing restoration project has turned the county’s Tendick nature area in rural Saukville into an attractive home for a wide variety of birds and pollinators

VOLUNTEERS AND OZAUKEE COUNTY staff members worked to insert prairie grasses and flowers (inset) at Tendick Nature Park recently. The third phase of the four-year prairie restoration project was recently completed and aims to replace invasive species with native plants and increase the population of pollinators such as birds, butterflies and bees. Photos by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Just four years in the making, Tendick Nature Park in the Town of Saukville is blooming and the number of visitors enjoying the display has increased considerably.

That is, visitors of the winged variety, as in birds, butterflies, bees and other insects.

“For the first time at Tendick, we reported bobolinks and nesting blue birds,” said Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Director Andrew Struck. “Our overall goal is to increase diversity at the site for native grassland birds and pollinators like butterflies and bees,” he said.

The county has documented 68 species of native flowers and grasses at Tendick.

“That’s a really high diversity,” Struck said. “We can see what we are doing in creating diversity. From an aesthetic standpoint, we can see lots of flowers and colors throughout the year.”

The park’s ongoing transformation hasn’t been by accident.

The 125-acre park, the land for which was donated by Donald Tendick, Sr., in 1999, includes a disc golf course and boat and kayak launch. 

In 2016, the county,  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Pheasants Forever seeded and restored about 12 acres to a warm-season prairie.

Ten bluebird nesting boxes were installed  around the restored prairie, as were three American kestrel nest boxes.  

The second phase, completed in 2018, the county partnered with other organizations to restore another five acres next to the 12 acres already restored. 

In addition to the prairie seeding, a few scattered oak trees were planted in the area to create  a savannah-like ecosystem. 

Also last year, the county Parks Department, the USFWS, the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust and the Milwaukee Audubon Society designed and excavated a half-acre wetland scrape at the base of the sloping prairie restoration site to create additional wetland habitat and help manage storm water. 

This year, in phase three of the project, has seen the restoration of almost 19 acres.

The county has been criticized by some for how it eradicated invasive plant species to prepare the area for planting native prairie grasses.

“Basically we started by managing invasive species through mechanical methods, like hand pulling and mowing to eliminate seed sources,” Struck said. “The final prepping before seeding requires us to use herbicides. We use only what we have to and at very low concentrations. It has a very short half life.

“We do two or three treatments at a very low dose, which is an accepted common practice by other ecologists and the National Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Using the herbicide means the soil does not have to be tilled, which would break up the soil structure and make germination of the new prairie seed less successful, Struck said.

A driller injects the seed through the dead sod without having to tear up the soil

` A similar program is being implemented at Virmond County Park in Mequon.

The work at Tendick has not gone unnoticed, Struck said, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has used the project as a model restoration project and the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust has used it as a model for managing storm water and flooding.

Helping fund the project has been nearly $75,000 in government and private grants, including, most recently, a $30,000 North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant from the USFWS. 

“We are very excited about the additional funding to implement our on-going restoration work toward the master plan,” Struck said. 

Other grantors have included We Energies, American Transmission Co. and the state Department of Natural Resources.

There are two more phases of prairie restoration to complete over the next two years, Struck said.

“Depending on how we implement it they could happen simultaneously,” he said.

Other plans include extending the hiking trails, adding boardwalks and improving public access to wooded wetlands and the Milwaukee River, Struck said.

All the work is paying off, Struck said.

“We can see things are successful. Pollinator species are there in larger numbers than ever before,” he said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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