By Coggin Heeringa, Program Director/Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek
In 2004, Gov. Jim Doyle signed legislation designating the first Saturday in March as Aldo Leopold Day in Wisconsin. At Crossroads at Big Creek, we started celebrating Aldo Leopold Day in 2007 and we have continued the tradition every year since. Our tradition, modified of course, will continue this year on March 6.
Every year, our celebration has been different. The first year, we held a marathon read of Leopold’s small book of essays, A Sand County Almanac. The book jacket describes it as “a stunning tribute to our land and a bold challenge to protect the world we love.”
At a number of events, actors, naturalists, teachers, Crossroads board members and volunteers have read portions of this life-changing book to a full lecture hall. Other years, smaller groups have gathered around the fireplace to share favorite passages.
One year, for a standing-room-only crowd, we screened the Wisconsin premiere of the film Green Fire, a full-length documentary which tells the story of Leopold’s extraordinary career and traces how his essays have shaped the modern conservation movement.
Another year, we celebrated the life of one of Leopold’s graduate students, Fran Hamerstrom, an author and ornithologist who is credited, along with her husband Frederick, with saving the greater prairie chicken population in Wisconsin. She was the first woman in the U.S. to earn a master’s degree in wildlife management. (Her portrait, a gift from artist James Ingwersen, hangs near the entrance of the Collins Learning Center.)
Several years, Crossroads joined with Write On Door County, the Door County Land Trust, The Clearing and The Ridges Sanctuary to offer a two-day progressive marathon read of the book. Clearly, we cannot fill the lecture hall or even gather around the fireplace sipping hot apple cider this year, but we also cannot let this tradition languish. Inspired by the success of Run the Distance at a Distance Crossroads Trail Run last summer, we are planning a ‘WALK WITH ALDO” event on Aldo Leopold Day, March 6, 2021.
We invite people to half-mile walk starting at the West Trailhead (at the kiosk on the Historic Village side of Crossroads’ parking lot). A trail marked with green ribbons will lead walkers to 12 posts displaying meaningful quotes from Aldo Leopold.
The “WALK WITH ALDO” will be offered from 9:30 a.m. until dark. It is free and open to the public, but we ask that people walk alone or in safe units, and that all practice social distancing. We recommend good footgear as the trails may be wet and/or slippery in spots.
Recently, we distributed a list of 25 Aldo Leopold quotations to Crossroads staff, Board of Directors and volunteers who were asked to read and vote for the most inspiring. The quotes posted on Aldo Leopold Day will be the ones that received the most votes.
The undisputed favorite of the Crossroads’ family was (drumroll): “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”
Another popular Leopold quote, relevant to all aspects of life, was: “Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays.”
Take time on Saturday to ponder the words of Aldo Leopold in your home, on a piece of land that is special to you, or at Crossroads, knowing that throughout Wisconsin and all over the world, other citizens of the Land-Community are sharing your experience.
Late winter is a great time to explore our three preserves – Big Creek, The Cove and Ida Bay. Pussy willows already are opening and birds are singing on sunny days. (Free preserve maps are available at the two trailheads at the Collins Learning Center parking lot on Michigan St.)
If, and only if snow is adequate and the temperatures are appropriate, we will continue our Ski (and Snowshoe) For Free program on weekends. Visit www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org for current information on trail conditions and hours of operation.
On Tuesday, March 9, at 7:00 p.m., the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will hold its March meeting virtually. Dr. John Beck will present “Meteors, Comets and Asteroids.” He will review what we know and broaden our knowledge of these objects and phenomena. The public is encouraged to attend. For login information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “DPAS” in the subject line.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages. We welcome your support! Become a member of Crossroads by mailing your support to P.O. Box 608, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235, or donate online at www.crossroadsatbigcreek.org. Ski for Free availability and trail condition are updated on our website daily during ski season.