The Hartland Marsh is dear to me, as only a place can become once you have invested much into it (see About Paul). Despite the wintry weather, things are heating up lately at the Marsh. Ken Neitzke, who led the Waukesha/Milwaukee chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) for many years, and was inspirational in awakening in me the awareness that I could make a difference, began exploring the possibility of resuming the use of fire in the maintenance of the Hartland Marsh. Ken lit a fire with the Village of Hartland leadership and Jill Rick, the author of the “I Want To Know” column in the Lake Country Reporter, fanned the flames.
IATA trail boss, Pat Witkowski, passed the torch to me letting me know about Jill’s recent article and I appended a comment to the article offering to help burn the brush piles I left behind at the Marsh. The fire jumped to Mike Einweck, the Village of Hartland Director of Public Works and he contacted me to let me know his crew was going to burn piles the next day (today). This was music to my ears and I immediately contacted Mike Fort and John Mesching. They have been working to restore prairies and Oak woodlands at Lapham Peak for many years, and being the jewels of the human species that they are, they both promised to come. Jack often helps at Lapham Peak and he joined us as well. Closing the loop, I contacted Pat to let her know and she also came to help.
I arrived a bit early to take some before pictures and was greeted by Jill Rick, whom I had contacted the night before to ask if she could get a photographer from the Lake Country Reporter to take some pictures. A half hour later Todd arrived and documented our efforts. The Village of Hartland Dept. of Public Works staff members Dave, Jake and Josh arrived around 8:00am and Jill began an interview with Dave, asking rather impertinently, “… do you know what you’re doing?”
I wondered If I knew what I was doing when I tried to light the first pile. Although the wood had been stacked for over 2 years and was well seasoned, we had just had a good soaking rain followed by an accumulation of 4″ of snow. Check out this mess.
Approximately 80% of these piles were made in one day by Arrowhead High School students under the guidance of biology teacher Greg Bisbee. Dave, Jake and Josh began with the piles right along the trail heading down from the gazebo. Situated in a becalmed drainage ditch, these snow encrusted tangles of frozen brush were not eager to embrace the flame. I encountered difficulty as well with piles by the trail and migrated up the hill looking for a little breeze. Soon, Mike and John arrived and we hit our stride. Despite the conditions, together we lit 60 piles.
The best part of the day was being visited by no less than; Augie Wilde, the Fire Chief, Dave Cox, the Village Administrator and Mike Einweck. These patient souls were subjected to impassioned speeches from yours truly about the need to do prescribed burns at the Marsh. The Municipal Code authorizes it and the Village’s own Comprehensive Land Use Plan Chapter 4 ( see Public Interest/Current Legislation under Legislation and Public Hearing Notices) implies it, as there is no other way to achieve its stated goals. I was happy to hear Dave Cox say “Fire is a good thing.” Hopefully, the Village leadership will be able to define some concrete action items to initiate a program of prescribed burning and implement them.
The Native Americans, or First Nation People taught us to plan for the 7th future generation. It is time for the Village of Hartland to embrace this credo and preserve and nurture its natural, open spaces for the 7th generation of Hartlandians to come.
Here is a short tour of the burn site at the end of the day.
After the gear was stowed away and I put some dry socks and boots on, I took a leisurely walk around the Marsh visiting all my favorite haunts. I encourage you to discover the beauty of the Hartland Marsh!