By Coggin Heeringa, Interpretive Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek, Inc.
Crossroads at Big Creek will honor the legacy of Aldo Leopold this weekend with two Leopold-themed hikes and a special guest lecture at our monthly Bird Club meeting.
Back in 2004, Governor Jim Doyle designated the first Saturday of March as Aldo Leopold Day in Wisconsin. Since then, Crossroads has celebrated Aldo Leopold Day with an event. Some years, the events were elaborate – like the year we hosted the Wisconsin Premiere of the documentary “Green Fire,” or the two years we collaborated with the Door County Land Trust, The Ridges, The Clearing and Write On Door County in a progressive marathon reading of “A Sand County Almanac.” One year we celebrated the life and words of Leopold’s student, Fran Hamerstrom, whose portrait by James Ingwersen now hangs in the Learning Center.
Through the years, we at Crossroads have internalized Leopold’s ideas as we have shared them with the community.
Our management decisions are based on the Aldo Leopold quote, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
Our educational philosophy echoes that of Leopold: “To instill in learners, through direct experience, an appreciation and respect of the natural world so they may develop a positive relationship with the land.”
We say that Crossroads is here for the community, understanding that Leopold’s “land ethic” expands the definition of “community” to include not only humans, but all of the other parts of the Earth, as well – soils, waters, plants, and animals, or what Leopold called “the land.” Even our youngest visitors, the members of our Junior Nature Club, repeat these words in their pledge.
During the past two years, the need for social distancing forced our Aldo Leopold celebrations outdoors. For many, reading the Leopold quotes posted along Crossroads trails was especially meaningful. So meaningful, in fact, that this year, we are hosting a hike featuring short Aldo Leopold vignettes read by volunteers. Because our 2023 educational theme is “Where Waters Meet,” the selections will deal with water. We took to re-reading “A Sand County Almanac” to see what he had written about water and wetlands.
Naturally, Leopold did not disappoint. Weather and conditions permitting, on Saturday, March 4, anytime between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., visitors will walk along Big Creek where Friends of Crossroads will be seated (on Leopold benches, of course) and will share inspiring words from his books and essays. Then, participants are invited indoors to enjoy hot apple cider and fellowship around the fire.
Leopold wrote, “I love all trees, but I am in love with pines.” He and his family planted thousands of white pine trees because, in his words, “Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel.”
Apparently, Ida Bay also liked pine trees. On our Sunday, March 5, afternoon hike at the Ida Bay preserve, we will visit pine plantations and discuss the benefits of biodiversity. This hike will start at the parking lot at 1195 Canal Road in Sturgeon Bay.
The Crossroads Bird Club – an informal gathering of folks who loves birds – will meet on Tuesday, March 7. After a brief tribute to Aldo Leopold, our special guest speaker will be Gary Casper, owner of Great Lakes Ecological Services and regional ecologist with the UW-Milwaukee Field Station. He will discuss acoustic monitoring and the research that is taking place at Crossroads. The program is free and open to the public.