A Trail Becomes More Than a Link Between Two Places
It was a simple plan: take the vacant land between the elementary school and the local library and make a walking trail connecting them so students would not need to walk along a roadway with no sidewalk to get from point A to point B.
What the residents of Eagle, a small village in Waukesha County, ended up with was not exactly simple to achieve, but it has become much more than many might have anticipated.
The Eagle Nature Trail, linking Eagle Elementary School to the Alice Baker Memorial Public Library, is a community volunteer and educational project bringing together students, local organizations and adults in the creation and maintenance of a walking path, prairie, woodland and pond.
The project has been funded entirely by donations, grants and local support. The building and maintenance of the trail is a collaboration among local businesses (including Home Depot, Chase Bank, Citizen’s Bank of Mukwonago, and a local law firm) to provide grants, volunteers, funding, and in-kind donations.
Seeds for the prairie area came from Agrecol and Prairie Nursery. Numerous groups, including scout troops, grade school classes, UW-Milwaukee field study students, The Nature Conservancy, AmeriCorps, members of the local National Honor Society and Lions Club, Friends of the Mukwonago River, and the Village Board were also involved.
Trail coordinators have engaged the community in learning about restoration; native and invasive plants; and prairie, wetland and woodland ecology with expert-led tours, plant identification workshops, and a variety of projects. These activities benefit the entire community, bringing together people from different backgrounds for a common, local achievement.
The school district coordinates educational activities with the local library, and the library makes plans with the elementary school staff to incorporate learning about nature into the school curriculum using the trail and surrounding restored areas. Trail coordinators report an increased awareness of invasive and native plants and of ways to improve the health of the environment to benefit insect and bird populations.
The trail was registered as a Monarch Waystation in 2013 by MonarchWatch.org and has become a Certified Wildlife Habitat Area recognized by the National Wildlife Federation. Both designations required that educational information be provided to the public explaining the meaning and responsibilities for nature trail management.
To quote Alli Chase, director of the Alice Baker library, in her letter of support for this nomination: “The trail has brought people together from differing backgrounds to work toward a common goal, the creation of a nature trail. The library, school, and community have modeled a successful project where a coalition of people with an interest in improving the community has worked together.”