Last Thursday, the Dane County board approved a $160,000 grant to fund a new addition to a local conservancy. The land is located between Black Earth and Mazomanie — and restoration to its natural state could help mitigate future flooding in the area.
The 38 acre property is currently a mix of wetlands and farmland bisected by Olson Road.
The $160,000 grant will provide funds for the Groundswell Conservancy to purchase the land and tack it on to an adjacent, 178 acre conservation area. The total cost of the land will be about $312,000. Roughly half of that comes from the county, and half from the state.
The area will eventually open up to outdoor activities — including biking, hunting and hiking.
But the property would provide more than just outdoor entertainment. Jim Welsh, the Groundswell Conservancy’s Executive Director, says restoring the area could prevent future flooding in the region.
“Three years ago there was a terrible flood in the valley that caused a lot of damage in Mazomanie, and this property is just upstream from there,” he tells WORT. “The more we can do to protect and manage wetlands, the more we can hold back rainwater and keep it from flooding in the valley.”
Welsh says that the acquisition of the property isn’t a done deal yet. The Conservancy and the current landowners have entered into a purchase agreement, but the final sale hasn’t been executed.
Welsh says that much of the conservancy’s work depends on the willingness of landowners to either sell, or let the conservancy manage, portions of their land.
“Sometimes we’re able to work out scenarios where we acquire land that was farmed but has been flooded for the past couple of years — so the farmers might not be able to use it as they did in the past… It’s definitely a win-win situation, because it helps farmers concentrate on their productive lands, gives them some cash to invest back in their farms and helps the larger community by restoring these wetlands by hopefully reducing flooding.”
Speaking with WORT earlier today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi gave his support to the project.
Says Parisi: “Dane County’s been doing a lot of work similar to this along the creek. We had a purchase earlier this year at the headwater of Black Earth Creek. Protecting that land, replanting it into prairie and having wetlands along the way helps keep the stream cleaner — but it also provides for, when we get our heavy rains, for the water to soak in rather than just run into the creek right away.”
If the sale goes through, the property will also connect bike paths between Middleton and Mazomanie. According to the county, folks will be able to peddle from Middleton to the Wisconsin River without leaving a bike trail.
PHOTO C/O GROUNDSWELL CONSERVANCY