By Coggin Heeringa, Interpretive Naturalist, Crossroads at Big Creek, Inc.
During Thanksgiving Week, we at Crossroads express our heartfelt gratitude for the privilege of caring for our preserves. In a way, “preserves” isn’t quite accurate. When we acquired our land, there wasn’t a great deal to preserve. But over the past quarter century, we endeavored to restore these degraded properties, and it is gratifying indeed to see the land becoming sustainable, supporting the native plants and wildlife of the Big Creek watershed and estuary.
We invite the community to share our gratitude and see the land in a different light on Friday evening, November 25, by participating in a Thanksgiving Luminary-lit Walk from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. Glowing luminaries will light the way along our .5-mile, crushed gravel Meadow Loop Trail. We’ll have campfires to warm up by in front of the Collins Learning Center and hot chocolate, too.
Restoration of land goes far beyond planting trees. To successfully create viable habitats, we need to learn all we can about our geologic and human history. We also understand that a surface understanding does not honor the First Peoples and people of various ethnic backgrounds who have lived and labored on our land. Of course, soil and micro-climate weather conditions influence our decisions for land management, too.
We need more than a surface understanding. And this month, we had the opportunity to provide that. Historian/archaeologist Dan Joyce, the recently retired executive director of the Kenosha Public Museum, visited our Cove Estuary Preserve archaeological site and spent several days surveying the area with ground-penetrating radar. The machine looked rather like a lawn mower, but this sophisticated equipment, using radar pulses, is able to image underground features of the land.
Joyce, along with archaeologist Dr. Robert Jeske and Midwest Archaeological Consultants principal investigator Randy Dickson were searching for evidence which will indicate prehistoric habitation. But also of interest to them and to our restoration team, data will reveal geologic deposits from the post-glacial shorelines along Big Creek and the Cove Estuary, thus helping us understand the topography influencing our riparian wetlands.
To do the survey, the archaeologists gridded an area, placed flags are regular intervals, then walked back and forth while the machine recorded subsurface data, which Joyce is now analyzing.
This was just one of many efforts to learn about the land we are dedicated to restore. Last summer, as a part of the Restoration School, Crossroads sponsored investigations and public lectures relating to geology, shrublands, savannas, native orchids, and the meaning of restoration.
Saturday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend, Crossroads will be screening videos about Door County. This tribute to the land and water is for residents and also for our visitors. In the past, families have enjoyed sharing the screenings as a part of their Thanksgiving weekend.
Also know that our restoration specialists are continuing to work through the cold season, knocking back invasive species so, in the future, native species will thrive. We are extremely grateful for the difference they are making.
And speaking of making a difference on the land, we are thankful for our Habitat Healers, a special group of the Friends of Crossroads who have donated hundreds of hours this year to help Crossroad care for the land.
Friends of Crossroads will meet on Monday night, November 28, for their annual Deck the Halls Holiday Decorations and Potluck. We will break out the wreaths, the ribbons, and the holiday cheer. The community is invited to join the Friends in decorating the Learning Center (and come to think of it, folks may want to actually join the Friends—meaning become a Crossroads volunteer.)
On Wednesday, November 30, join us for Crossroads’ Book Club. We’ll be discussing Robin Wall Kimmer’s Braiding Sweet Grass, a book that will change the way you think about the land and our interaction with it. You’re welcome whether you’ve read the book or not.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and restoration, and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages and from all backgrounds. We welcome your support! Become a member of Crossroads by mailing a contribution.