Skip Navigation
Main Menu
Kids skiing at Patrick Marsh. Photo credit: Ben Jones

Our Priority

Connect People With Nature

Twenty Minutes a Day in Nature

Even though the human brain is hard-wired to function in natural surroundings, our daily “screen time” continues to increase. Entertainment, socializing, education, health and fitness all have us interacting with our phones, computers and other devices. We are becoming an indoor society—and disconnecting from nature.

Fortunately, we can still reap the health benefits of a nature connection. Studies show even 20 minutes spent in a natural environment, three times a week, can significantly reduce the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. Walking through a park or listening to birds can help lower blood pressure and increase energy levels. Even looking at greenspace through a window can be beneficial.

To maintain these health benefits, along with clean drinking water and nourishing food production, we must protect natural lands. Through land conservation, outreach and events, Groundswell helps people build deeper relationships with nature. Those connections lead to caring, and caring leads to protecting. One special place this happens is Patrick Marsh.

From wetland and wildlife preservation to school curriculum and sculpture, Patrick Marsh engages the community in many ways to build a healthier, nature-rich future for all. To learn more about this special place that is connecting communities with nature, click on the Story tab.

Coneflowers Are Not the Only Thing to Blossom at Patrick Marsh

Beyond the brick walls of a Sun Prairie middle school, you’ll find a world where prairie flowers and math lessons meet.

Seventh grade students helped Groundswell restore an 18-acre area of prairie at Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area, planting seeds in a precise grid. Cone flowers were not the only thing to blossom.

Teachers at Patrick Marsh Middle School connected the Groundswell prairie planting to geometry. They introduced the students to concepts of ratios and proportions, tied the planting to plots on a map and flew a drone so the students could get a bird’s eye view of the work.

“There are so many cool different aspects to that one experience,” said seventh grade teacher Vince Brandl. “It’s like a spiderweb, and as we connect everything, the more we see the additional connections that we can make.”

Patrick Marsh is a place where Groundswell helps people of all ages make connections with nature. Located on the Northeast side of Sun Prairie, the marsh includes parcels owned by the DNR, Groundswell and the City of Sun Prairie.

Groundswell has worked to expand and manage the protected area while serving as a catalyst to connect the community, including the nearby middle school, to the marsh.

“Groundswell has all these things happening, but they still check in with us,” Brandl said. “They ask us what we need or if they have an idea, they ask us what we think.”

Trails at the marsh take visitors along the edge of Brazee Lake, and through areas of prairie and oak savanna. The trails are popular with birdwatchers, families and other who love the outdoors.

Groundswell regularly hosts community events and projects, including nature hikes that incorporate everything from pollinators to poetry. Children are a common sight in the marsh, especially when school is in session.

“I can take a 10-minute hike outside of our school with the kids and talk about prairie plants or erosion,” Brandl said. “In a 15-minute walk, we’re using microscopes or kids are bringing out their Chromebooks and taking pictures or creating journals. There’s no other school in our community that has this, and it’s right in our backyard.”

For years, Patrick Marsh Middle School has held an after school Discovery Club that provides an opportunity for children to learn about the plans and animals of the marsh. Each fall the school also holds “Marsh Madness of Learning” when middle school students create lessons about the marsh and then teach elementary students.

“We just stay back as adults and let the kids teach the kids,” Brandl said.

One year, it wasn’t possible for the children to gather, so a Groundswell staff member spoke to students live from the marsh via a video feed from his phone. The discussion touched on environmental careers and included a little more geometry. “How to make the slope of the trail at not too steep of an angle,” Brandl said.

Groundswell also recently unveiled a sculpture that it completed with the help of donors and the inspiration of students at Sun Prairie’s Prairie Phoenix Academy and Westside Elementary School. The interactive sculpture represents resilience, second chances, and personal and community growth. It’s in the shape of a phoenix and it rises from the earth.

Brandl said the middle school years are not easy for some students.

“Kids in middle school are often very down, especially when they are not moving.” Brandl said. “Getting outside, into the sunlight, brings some happiness. It brings learning back.”

Our Parks Preserves & Trails Projects

Open to the Public Hunting is Allowed
38 Projects (Alphabetized by Project Area)
Thanks to the generosity of three landowners, the Land Trust purchased this 53-acre property at a bargain price and then gave the property to the Village of Cross Plains as an addition to the Village's system of conservancy parks. The Land Trust retained a conservation easement on the property, ensuring that it would always remain open to the public in a natural state. This property is open to the public.
This property was a key link in securing a trail corridor connecting the Village of Mazomanie with the Wisconsin Heights School. The public trail allows hiking, biking, and snowmobiling. It runs along a beautifully restored section of Black Earth Creek and provides public access to its world-class trout fishery. This permanently protected parcel was transferred to the Town of Mazomanie. This property is open to the public.
This 10-acre easement makes it possible to both restore a stretch of Halfway Prairie Creek and extend the Wolf Run Trail north. The property under the easement is open to the public but the trail has not been built yet. This easement is co-held with Dane County.
The Streambank and Public Recreational Trail Easement protects and provides public access to roughly 6,300 feet of Black Earth Creek, a high-quality water resource in Dane County popular with trout anglers. A proposed public trail connecting the Village of Mazomanie to the Wisconsin Heights School would be constructed within the easement. This property is open to the public.
Thanks to the generosity of the Bolz family this ten-acre hill top park protects sweeping views of Lake Mendota and the state capitol. The Land Trust holds a conservation easement on the park to ensure that it will always remain open to the public as a natural area. In addition, the Land Trust holds two more conservation easements that protect the view from the park. This property is open to the public.
Part of the Bolz Conservancy Park project, this 13-acre conservation easement protects public park land and helps preserve the view from Bolz Conservancy Park. This easement was generously donated by the Village of Waunakee. This property is open to the public.
This 26-acre conservation easement protects a significant part of the setting for Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark, an important local business. This property is open to visitors of Cave of the Mounds.
This ~238-acre addition to the City of Madison Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park permanently protects the large expanse of wetland on the east of North Sherman Avenue along the approach to the main entrance to the popular city conservation park. This property is open to the public.
This ~23-acre addition to the City of Madison Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park separates planned residential development on the north side of the golf course at Cherokee Country Club from the popular city conservation park. It permanently protects 660 feet of shoreline on the Yahara River and will eventually include a biking/hiking trail linking Burning Wood Way with North Sherman Avenue. This property is open to the public.
This ~23-acre acquisition is the last piece of undeveloped land between the main entrance to the City of Madison Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park and the Cherokee golf course and residential area. Groundswell purchased the property on behalf of the city and immediately transferred it to the city as an addition to the conservation park. Eventually, the city plans to put a bike/hike path across the property, part of a link in a trail system that will improve access to the park. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This 5.8 acre acquisition was the last opportunity to permanently protect wetland and upland habitat in the South Unit of the City of Madison's Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park. The property is now part of the city's park. This property is open to the public.
The Land Trust purchased this 21-acre wetland parcel and transferred it to the City of Madison as an addition to the City's Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
Permanently protects the landscape around the Historic Indian Agency House in Portage and is part of a larger landscape of several hundred acres of wetland conservation easements. This property is open to the public.
This acquisition of 198 acres includes 38 acres of the original 320-acre farm settled by Daniel Muir in 1849. About 60 acres of the Muir farm is already permanently protected at the adjacent John Muir Memorial Park/Muir Park State Natural Area surrounding Ennis Lake (called Fountain Lake by the Muirs). The property is part of a 1,400-acre protected landscape, which includes the John Muir Memorial Park/Muir Park State Natural Area and the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. The property will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching. Groundswell transferred 120 acres west of County Highway F to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as an addition to the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. Groundswell transferred the eastern 78 acres to the Ice Age Trail Alliance. A segment of the Ice Age Trail circles Ennis Lake and may continue north across the property we acquired. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This 40.2 acre parcel of land fills a hole in the 3,500-acre block of conservation land (the largest in Dane County) that stretches 3.5 miles along the Wisconsin River and encompasses state and county land open to the public for hiking, hunting, and other nature-based recreation opportunities. It is adjacent to the 7-A Farms acquisition at Walking Iron Natural Resource Area that Groundswell helped Dane County protect in 2008. The permanently protected property was transferred to the DNR in January 2011. This property is open to the public.
This nearly 40-acre property boasts over a mile of frontage on the Yahara River. It was transferred to the City of Stoughton for use as a conservancy park and to build a bike trail that will connect through Viking County Park to the city's trail system. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This project was 1 of 4 acquisitions that created Lussier County Park. This permanently protected property was transferred to Dane County and is open to the public.
This project was 1 of 4 acquisitions that created Lussier County Park. This permanently protected property was transferred to Dane County and is open to the public.
This project was 1 of 4 acquisitions that created Lussier County Park. This permanently protected property was transferred to Dane County and is open to the public.
This project was 1 of 4 acquisitions that created Lussier County Park. This permanently protected property was transferred to Dane County and is open to the public.
This easement was assigned to Groundswell from Riverland Conservancy. The easement protects wetland and other wildlife habitat at Gallus Slough on land owned by Wisconsin Power and Light inside the Merrimac Preserve adjacent to Devil's Lake State Park.
The Land Trust and the Friends of Dane County Parks purchased this 24-acre parcel as an addition to the environmental corridor that runs south of Madison. The permanently protected property includes the west shore of Dunn's Marsh and was transferred to Dane County for management as part of the Lewis Nine Springs E-Way. The Capital City State Trail runs through the property. This property is open to the public.
This 23-acre property protects part of the upland landscape on the south side of Patrick Marsh. This property is open to the public.
These tracts were originally purchased by Dane County and subsequently transferred to Groundswell for more efficient land management at Patrick Marsh.
This 25-acre acquisition of upland property permanently protects views of Patrick Marsh and provides additional nesting and foraging habitat for waterfowl. Groundswell transferred the property to the City of Sun Prairie.
This 22.5-acre property protects part of the upland landscape on the south side of Patrick Marsh. This property is open to the public.
This 35-acre property protects wetland and savanna habitat on the south side of Patrick Marsh. This property is open the public.
Groundswell assisted the Town of Windsor in purchasing 17.3 acres as an addition to the Town's Token Creek Conservancy by obtaining state and county grants for matching funds. We never held any interest in the property. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This eight-acre conservation easement protects wooded land along Lake Mendota that is park of the University of Wisconsin�s Lakeshore Nature Preserve. This easement was generously donated to the Land Trust as part of the adjacent Wally Bauman Woods project. This property is open to the public.
The inaugural project of the Land Trust, this project protects 3.95 acres of woodland on the bluffs of Lake Mendota. The Land Trust purchased the property and transferred it to the City of Madison , which subsequently transferred it to the University of Wisconsin. It is now open to the public as part of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. The Land Trust retains a conservation easement over the property to ensure that it will never be developed. This property is open to the public.
This 75-acre conservation easement would be held as an additional level of permanent protection on land being donated to the Green-Rock Audubon Society for a public nature preserve. This property is open to the public.
Groundswell assisted Dane County in the acquisition of 382 acres of land along 2-1/2 miles of the Sugar River between Verona and Paoli. The property is permanently protected. The property is open to the public for hiking, fishing, hunting, trapping, and cross-county skiing.
This 30-acre property protects the northern flank of Westport Drumlin, a very high-quality dry prairie and oak savanna remnant that is home to the state's largest population of the federally-threatened and state-endangered prairie bush clover and other rare species. This property is open to the public.
This 73.3 acre property protects the eastern flank of the Westport Drumlin, a very high quality dry prairie and oak savanna remnant that is home to the state's largest population of the federally-threatened and state-endangered prairie bush-clover (Lespedeza leptostachya) and other rare species. This property is open to the public.
This addition to the Westport Drumlin State Natural Area protects four prairie remnants and buffers the main prairie and savanna at Westport Drumlin. This property is open to the public.
This 9.7 acre property fills a gap in the Westport Drumlin landscape and puts another prairie remnant under permanent protection. This property is open to the public.
Thanks to the generosity of landowner Hazel Knudson, this 40-acre nature preserve, including prairie, wetland, and a tributary of Six Mile Creek, is open to the public north of the Village of Waunakee. Groundswell transferred this property to Dane County. It remains permanently protected. This property is open to the public.
Thanks to the generosity of landowner Hazel Knudson, this 40-acre nature preserve, including prairie, wetland, and a tributary of Six Mile Creek, is open to the public north of the Village of Waunakee. Groundswell transferred this property to Dane County. It remains permanently protected. This property is open to the public.