Celebrating 40 Years of Conservation
2023 marked Groundswell’s 40th anniversary. Our story (shared below) began in 1983 when a group of concerned citizens came together to protect a small, but important piece of land on the Lake Mendota shoreline. This group of people planted a seed that would lead to the creation of Dane County Natural Heritage Foundation, now known as Groundswell Conservancy.
I want to recognize Groundswell’s founders, as well as our staff, supporters, volunteers, and partners for the impressive accomplishments we’ve made these past four decades. Thank you for caring deeply about the land and for planting the “seeds” to help us protect nearly 14,000 acres of special places!
Together, with your generous support, we will continue to meet the challenges ahead and protect more special places. That means protecting farmland, conserving more wildlife habitat, providing equitable access to land, protecting our wetlands from a changing climate, and helping our youth connect to the outdoors through green schoolyards. It’s a grand challenge and an endeavor worthy of our best effort.
Most of all, we are grateful to you, to your continued enthusiasm and dedication. You inspire us and help make this important work possible.
Yours in conservation,
Angela West Blank
40 Years of Protecting our Special Places
Yellow Coneflower Flowers seen on the 2021 Yahara Heights Prairie Hike. © Ben Jones
Wally Bauman Woods Wally Bauman Woods, outlined in yellow, was named in honor of Walter "Wally" Bauman, who played a key role in our founding. © Lakeshore Nature Preserve
Dr. Watts conveying easement to AFT Dr Alice Watts with board president Norman C. Anderson (right) and AFT president Ralph Grossi at the dedication of the Watts Farms Conservation Easement.
Cherokee Marsh Cherokee Marsh, Dane County's largest wetland, is located at the head of the chain of Yahara lakes. © Mario Quintana
Ruth Oppedahl © Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin
Token Creek Token Creek is the primary contributor of water to the Yahara River and consequentially is the largest contributor to the water of Madison’s Lake Mendota.
Pasque flowers Pasque flowers are the first signs of spring at Westport Prairie. © Tony Abate
Sinaiko Family Sinaiko dedication on hill at what is now the Dunn Park. Left to Right, Beth Hastings, Jocelyn Jacobs, Jan Zimmerman, Connie Campbell, Vicki Elkin, Brian Hotz, Brian Ohm.
Fish Lake Heron Our community's natural treasures include a wealth of lakes. The most common and serious threats to lakes is stormwater runoff and shoreline development. © Bill Pielsticker
Bob Bolz The Bolz family also donated what is now the Bolz Conservancy Park to Groundswell in 2001.
NHLT logo Our work had expanded outside of Dane County and we are a land trust, not a Foundation. © Ben Jones
JW and Curt the Cardinal Jim devoted his professional career to land conservation, working in Wisconsin, California, Michigan, and Washington, DC with leading conservation groups. He continues to volunteer with Groundswell. © Angie Banks
Farm Fields Dane County and its surrounding area is home to some of the richest farm soil in the United States. © Roberta Herschleb
Patrick Marsh press event Left to right: State Representative Gary Hebl, Patrick Marsh Conservancy president Jeanne Behrend, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, City of Sun Prairie mayor Joe Chase.
Botany with BJ Field trips are free and open to the public. Get out on the land with us! © Roberta Herschleb
Prairie Partners Crew 2013 crew members. The Partners in the program include Madison Audubon, Friends of Cherokee Marsh, Friends of Lakeshore Nature Preserve, Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy.
Black Hawk Ridge Trail Run The 8K and 16K courses take runners through a restored prairie, hardwood forest, and pine plantation with views of the Wisconsin River valley and beyond. © Roberta Herschleb
Accreditation Celebration Former board member, Darcy Kind, hosted an accreditation celebration with some founders, board and staff.
Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar BJ our Conservationist captured this photo out at Patrick Marsh and writes about findings like these in his monthly "Nature Now" emails. They are a virtual tour of nature as it's happening. Sign up today to receive nature in your in-box! © BJ Byers
Wolf Run Trail Wolf Run Trail is a two mile, 10-foot wide crushed gravel path from the Village of Mazomanie to Wisconsin Heights High School. The trail is open to the public year around for multiple recreational uses. © Angie Banks
John Muir land dedication Supporters had an opportunity to explore the trail during the land dedication in 2018. © Brant Erickson
Yimmuaj Yang & Family by Westport Prairie sign Westport Prairie is a 227-acre wildlife area on the east side of Waunakee, WI. With 1.5 miles of trails, visitors are invited to explore the prairies and 14-acre drumlin.
Town of Dunn 20th Anniversary picnic Groundswell and the Town of Dunn hosted a 20th anniversary potluck at Dunn Park, our first joint purchase. © Ben Jones
Lake View Elementary outdoor classroom ribbon cutting We included the Lake View Elementary students in all aspects of this conservation project, from donor tours to the land closing. © Ben Jones
Groundswell logo A view of the Wisconsin River from Louis' Bluff, a Wisconsin Dells landmark, protected forever with a conservation easement. © Mario Quintana
Robert Pierce and youth Robert Pierce in the driver's seat, with participants of his PEAT program (Program for Entrepreneurial and Agricultural Training). © Ben Jones
Westport Farm HMoob elder "I am so happy to know that I will have access to land to grow, to walk around, enjoy nature and to relax. But most importantly, there are people who are supportive of the garden and care about all of us elders" ~Xao Cha © Ben Jones
Marsh Madness of Learning event Patrick Marsh Middle School students, along with Sonya Sankaran (pictured here), teach Sun Prairie Elementary School students about nature at the annual Marsh Madness of Learning at Patrick Marsh. © Focal Flame Photography
Nancy McGill on the right Nancy McGill has been volunteering in the Groundswell office one day a week since 2012. Gathering Waters' Conservation Leadership Awards honored Nancy as Volunteer of the Year in 2023. © Althea Dotzour Photography
Linden Cohousing farmers market Groundswell and Linden Cohousing continue to host a farmers market on Thursdays from 3:00 - 6:00 pm from late May to mid September at 2082 Winnebago St, Madison. © Ben Jones
Westport Parkland Birds-eye view of protected land on the corner of County M and Woodland Dr, Waunakee. © Ben Jones
Groundswell’s Founding Story
The year was 1983, and environmental leaders across Dane County had come together in a courageous effort to protect the last piece of land in a corridor stretching from the UW Madison campus to Picnic Point.
Known at the time as the Lower Eagle Heights Woods, the cherished 3.4-acre parcel and home to an infinite variety of native plants and some 30 species of nesting birds, was being eyed for a condominium project.
When reports of the impending condo development hit the local news, concerned citizens sprang into action. They launched a community effort to “Save the Woods” championed by environmental attorney Bill O’Connor and mayoral aide David Chandler. Mayor Joe Sensenbrenner formed a steering committee, chaired by former Assembly Speaker Norm Anderson. This committee established the Dane County Natural Heritage Foundation (now known as Groundswell Conservancy) – a land trust – to serve Madison, Dane County and the region. (Norm served as our organization’s president for its first five years.)
Dane County Board members Wally Bauman and Bill Lunney also took up the cause, educating reluctant colleagues about the wider significance of the leafy green lakefront parcel. Other preservationists, including Diane Derouen, Sharon Gaskill, Jean Meanwell, and Nancy Heiden, attended public hearings convened by the City Park Commission, the Plan Commission, and the City Commission on the Environment. Madison Audubon President Glenn Chambliss and volunteer attorney Walter Kuhlman enthusiastically worked to protect the woods and support the formation of new land trust.
The Wisconsin State Journal picked up on the issue as well, publishing numerous articles and soliciting private donations through a “Save the Woods” campaign. Jim Zimmerman, Diane Derouen, and Bill Roark received an Orchid award from the Capitol Community Citizens for their efforts.
Finally, in one of the most amazing land deals at the time, the property was purchased for preservation — with contributions from the UW ($100,000), the city of Madison ($80,000), Dane County ($40,000), and more than $30,000 in private funds from the State Journal’s campaign. The remaining funds were provided by a federal matching grant.
To ensure the land would never be developed, the new Dane County Natural Heritage Foundation placed a conservation easement on the property. The woods were now protected and renamed in honor of Wally Bauman, who, unfortunately died before the deal was completed.
“I’ve been so impressed at the way Groundswell has evolved,” says Bill O’Connor. “The group has come a long way from those days when a group of concerned citizens banded together to save a small piece of lakefront woods.”
Thank you to our founders, listed below, for their time, energy, and commitment to creating a land trust to protect special places forever.
Our Founders (in alphabetical order)
|Norman C. Anderson
|Harry & Sylvia Peterson
|Louise & Walter Scott
|Diane Derouen & Glenn Chambliss
|Nancy & Howard Mead
|Jean & Walter Meanwell
Ruth Oppedahl (1991-1998)
Danielle Wood (1998 – 2003)
Jim Welsh (2003 – 2022)
Angela West Blank (2022 – Present)