Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Moves Forward on Two Significant Land Conservation Projects

February 13, 2020
Ariana Vruwink, 608-267-8823
County Executive

Today, County Executive Joe Parisi announced that two significant land conservation projects are moving forward. The first project includes a conservation and trail easement of approximately 152 acres in the Town of Cross Plains for the Ice Age Complex in Cross Plains. The second enables Groundswell Conservancy to purchase nearly 69 acres of property west of Lower Mud Lake in the Town of Dunn for wetland habitat protection and public recreation. Both projects were introduced as resolutions at last week’s County Board meeting and are expected to be approved in the coming weeks.

“Dane County is committed to preserving our outdoor spaces so they can be enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for many years to come,” said County Executive Joe Parisi. “These purchases allow us and our partners to restore Dane County’s natural resources and protect land with significant conservation benefits as our community continues to grow.”

The parcel being purchased in the Town of Cross Plains is in the southern end of the Ice Age Complex boundary, bordered by W. Mineral Point Road to the north and Timber Lane to the east.  It is mostly tillable land and contains an approximately 14-acre pond. The proposed easement will allow for agricultural uses on the property and limit development on the parcel.  The easement also includes a 30-foot corridor along the east side of the property for the Ice Age Trail.

“It’s great Michael Coyle and Dane County collaborated to ensure this farm land forever remains in agriculture,” said Greg Hyer, Town Chair of Cross Plains. “Michael’s grandfather and father left legacies in Town of Cross Plains religious and civic life. Michael has preserved the family agricultural roots and livelihood on a property with geological and historical significance. Future generations will enjoy and benefit from his stewardship.”

The Ice Age Complex encompasses approximately 1,500 acres of land and was established by the Department of the Interior in 1971 because of its distinct landscape. The northern and eastern edges of the Complex were covered by the glacier and ice-dammed lakes, while the remainder of the site is in the Driftless Area. The area was chosen for the Johnstown Moraine, its various definitive glacial features, and its close proximity to a large population center and increasing urbanization. Partners include the National Park Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ice Age Trail Alliance, and Dane County—who all own and/or manage the land.

Dane County will purchase this 152-acre parcel for $1,090,000 using funds from the Dane County Conservation Fund. County Executive Parisi included $4 million in his 2020 budget for the Dane County Conservation Fund, which is used to continue the pursuit of preserving land with clear quality of life, conservation, and recreational benefits.

In addition to this purchase, Dane County will also provide $152,570 for Groundswell Conservancy to acquire approximately 68.85 acres of land located west of Lower Mud Lake in the Town of Dunn. The property lies on both sides of US Highway 51 and is within the Lower Mud Lake Natural Resources Area.  It is adjacent on the east to Wisconsin DNR owned land in the Lower Mud Lake State Fishery Area.

“As we learn more and more every day, every single piece of wetland we have left is worth protecting,” said Jim Welsh, Executive Director of Groundswell Conservancy. “Our response to climate change, flooding, the loss of wildlife habitat, and the health of Madison’s chain of lakes depends on our wetlands.”

The property is mostly marsh/wetland with some small areas of open water.  Approximately 6 acres are made of wooded upland with a mix of hardwoods and pines. Groundswell Conservancy will acquire the property for wetland habitat protection and public recreation and will be responsible for management of the parcel.

The estimated project costs for the acquisition total $297,800. Dane County is providing Groundswell Conservancy funding through its Conservation Fund Grant Program. A Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant and contribution from the Town of Dunn will help complete the purchase.