Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve
The mission of Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve, Inc. is to protect and manage its globally important wildlife habitat so as to maintain its ecological integrity, and to involve the community in a greater understanding of natural resources through education, programmed events, and experience in our preserve.
More than 5,000 years ago, post-glacial Lake Nippissing (now Lake Michigan) was nearly 30 feet higher than the present water surface. Before that time, glacial ice blocked the escape of water from the lake, but as the ice melted and the water level fell, the shoreline of the lake moved south and east. At the shore, breaking waves scooped up and re-deposited the sandy bottom, forming a series of parallel underwater ridges and troughs. As the water surface fell, the ridges became long, low sand dunes, with the troughs or swales alternating between them. Fourteen such ridges and swales, the ancient lake shorelines, are the geological foundation of the Woodland Dunes preserve. These forested dunes and swales provide a biologically rich habitat which is found in only two places (the other being nearby Point Beach State Forest) in our ecological region.
Over time, the bare sand dunes and wet swales were populated by a beach dune plant community, then shrub carr, then a rich forest composed of many plant and animal species. Both animals and early native people walked the backs of the sandy ridges, and some of our trails follow those ancient routes. Significant Native American villages were located nearby at Two Rivers and Shoto, on the East and West Twin Rivers. When European settlers populated this area, the land that is now Woodland Dunes was used for timber and wildlife harvest, recreation, and agriculture. Hemlock bark was harvested for tanning leather. A fish camp was built along the West Twin. A pavilion, site of picnics and brass band concerts for local residents, was built in the forest.
Woodland Dunes Nature Center's genesis began in 1965 when local resident Bernie Brouchoud began catching, banding and releasing birds on what is now WDNC property.
Little did he know that his hobby would evolve into a lifetime passion of wildlife preservation and the education of Manitowoc county and area youngsters.
It wasn't long before Brouchoud, a federally licensed bird bander, and a small group of interested junior high students were making regular visits to the area during weekends.
Keenly aware of the value of this land as a bird migration stopover and nesting area, this group established a bird banding research station.
Winter Wonder WoodlandsInterest in the area and support grew as bird watchers, hikers, and school children visited the banding station and became intrigued by the valuable experiences the site had to offer.
As more and more people visited the area and new facts were uncovered about the great variety of life which occurred there, it became apparent that the land should be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Says Brouchoud "I've never seen a place like this as far as variety and uniqueness."
The geologically-unique area offers a great diversity of ecological habitats, including marsh, sedge meadow, shrub carr, old field, native grassland and the rare forested dunes and swales.
In 1974 an organizing committee was formed headed by Brouchoud. The plan of this committee was to preserve approximately 1,200 acres with an additional goal of some day erecting a nature center that would serve not only as an educational resource for all the people in the area, but for all those people that would be attracted to the site once it became better known.
The committee formed its board of directors, began a membership drive, created its Dunesletter newsletter and began to submit weekly articles to the Manitowoc Herald Times, the area's daily newspaper (now the Herald Times-Reporter).
Thus, Woodland Dunes officially began, quickly expanding and gathering membership including people and organizations who were helpful in developing the project.
During these early days members raised funds through recycling, bake sales, car washes, etc.
HawkAn early boost was the involvement of Natural Areas Preservation, Inc,. a non-profit organization formed for the specific purpose of preserving such land in many areas of Wisconsin. This organization, and with the help of Gordon Bubolz of Appleton, offered guidance to the Woodland Dunes board, and when land became available for purchase aided in the negotiations.
Additional help was provided by a successful application for government grants to cover the hiring of early Woodland Dunes employees.
In 1974, the first land purchase of 40 acres was made at a cost of $6,000 dollars.
Brouchoud became executive director in 1976 and worked full-time in that capacity until 2004.
Land was acquired in parcels ranging from one to 115 acres as funds would permit over the ensuing 34 years, entirely from donated funds and grants. Nature trails were added as funds permitted as were educational programs for school children.
Today, Woodland Dunes Nature Center's preserve covers nearly 1,200 acres and is home to more than 400 species of plants, 260 species of both resident and migratory birds, 40 species of mammals (including human visitors), 7 species of amphibians, and thousands of species of invertebrates.
Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media