By Coggin Heeringa, Program Director/Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek
Crossroads at Big Creek is thrilled to announce that, thanks to an outpouring of community support, we have raised the funds needed to replace two of our aging bridges – the North Bridge and Cedar Crossing Bridge. Visitors to Crossroads will soon see signs of work being done as we aim to install helical pilings prior to the DNR’s “no disturb” window which begins March 1.
Here at Crossroads, we aren’t overly concerned about groundhogs seeing shadows. To us, spring starts when Northern Pike swim up Big Creek, which can be any time after March 1. The March 1 date is more than a speculation. It’s a regulation. We, and other riparian landowners, can’t be mucking around in the muck during the annual fish spawn, which means we need to have our pilings in before that date. So, although it sometimes seems like spring will never come, we are now looking at a very short window of time to get started on this project.
We have learned a great deal about bridges and wetlands and engineering and floodplain protection and fish spawning and accessibility since we embarked on the adventure of replacing three bridges. (Fundraising continues for the third bridge – Pike Passage. We hope to have that installed this fall.)
When starting this project, we first looked to the guiding principles of our Environmental Restoration Plan, one of which is: “Think like the creek, think like the wildlife, and think about people. Is a considered action good for the creek, for spawning fish and migrating birds and macro-invertebrates, and is it good for the engagement of the Community? And rather than or.”
So why do we need bridges? Our preserve is bisected by our namesake, Big Creek. We need the bridges so visitors and also our staff and equipment can safely get from one side to another. One of our considerations is engagement. Bridges act as picture windows into the preserve. From the North Bridge, visitors can view spectacular wetlands without getting wet and without trampling the unique plants. Cedar Crossing is the bridge from which learners of all ages watch the annual sucker run in spring or the occasional salmon or trout run in the fall. Many of our educational programs and research projects start at the bridges. People are drawn to our bridges.
While we provide access, we also need to protect the creek and its associated wetlands and riparian areas. This means building bridges is a bit more complicated than it sounds.
In order to have bridges that meet elevation requirements, we must also install boardwalks. The boardwalks will pass over areas that are wet some parts of the year. Essentially, the boardwalks are bridges over land. And because that land truly is muck, the support system must be anchored. Our plan calls for helical piles, stabilizing apparatus that resemble giant corkscrews, to be twisted into the soggy soil beneath the boardwalks and bridges.
During the coming weeks, final soil testing and engineering will occur and piles will be ordered, and, fingers crossed, installed before the March 1 deadline. Once that is complete, the actual bridges can be placed on the supports. If all goes according to plan, two bridges will be completed this summer. And if we achieve our ambitious fundraising goal, we may replace the Pike Passage Bridge this fall.
As work proceeds, short segments of the Creek and Forest Habitat Trails will be closed for much of the spring. This leaves plenty of other areas to snowshoe, hike, ski and explore. Our ski trails will remain open and will be groomed whenever we have adequate snow. And on weekends, we will continue to offer our Ski-for-Free program.
We appreciate visitors’ patience as this project progresses. We also appreciate financial contributions. Donations to the bridge project can be made online at crossroadsatbigcreek.org or by sending a check to Crossroads at Big Creek, P.O. Box 608, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235.
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 and from all backgrounds. Masks are recommended inside buildings.
Wednesday, February 2
3:00 pm Groundhog’s Day Hike
Join the naturalist in a visit to the Ida Bay Preserve. We will meet at the Parking Lot at the intersection of Canal Road and Buffalo Ridge Trail, 1195 Canal Road, and explore the deep beech hemlock forest on the east end of the preserve and while we will visit groundhog habitat, we do not expect to see one popping out of its hole. About an hour. Free and open to the public.
Friday, February 4
10:00 Junior Nature Club
This activity is for pre-school children and the caregivers, but siblings and other interested people are welcome. This week the topic shelters, but there will be time for unstructured play. All activities outside so bundle up. Free and
Saturday, February 5
9:30 am – 3:30 pm Ski-for-Free (conditions allowing)
On winter weekends, Crossroads offers our Ski-for-Free program when and if there is enough snow. Friends of Crossroads and volunteers from Door County Silent Sports will help participants find the correct sizes of equipment. We have skis, boots, poles, snowshoes and kicksleds. We keep our trails groomed IF we have an adequate base. Check crossroadsatbigcreek.org for current hours and conditions.
Sunday February 6
12:30 pm – 3:30 pm Ski-for-Free (conditions allowing)
On winter weekends, Crossroads offers our Ski-for-Free program when and if there is enough snow. Friends of Crossroads and volunteers from Door County Silent Sports will help participants find the correct sizes of equipment. We have skis, boots, poles, snowshoes and kicksleds. We keep our trails groomed IF we have an adequate base. When snow and temperature conditions allow. Check crossroadsatbigcreek.org for current hours and conditions.