Adelman & Schwartz

This unique lakeshore 1.6 acre property is the last remnant of a once vast prairie in the area around Whitewater, WI. The site was gifted to The Prairie Enthusiasts in 2015.  See the article below for the story of this preserve.

Site stewards
Zach Kastern; Glacial Prairies Chapter

Access & directions

The property is on North Lake, near Whitewater, WI.  


Article on the Charlotte Adelman & Bernard L. Schwartz Preserve

Saving the “Heart” of Heart Prairie
Joe Rising, TPE Communications Coordinator; with additions by Alice Mirk.

Charlotte Adelman and Bernard Schwartz have a long commitment to conservation efforts and work hard to preserve and restore prairie remnants. They have written books such as The Prairie Directory of North America and The Midwestern Native Garden. Their interest in prairies goes way back and together they enjoy keeping an eye on our native landscapes.
 
As we know, prairies are always under threat of being tilled under and chopped up. This is wreaking havoc on biological diversity and opening the door to invasive species. A dark shadow falls on the land as restorative fires are replaced by brush and trees. Our prairie heritage also is often lost to surveyed lots and houses.
 
That is where Charlotte and Bernie came to the rescue. Given their interest in native landscapes, they identified an overgrown remnant as a small part of a landscape-scale prairie, historically called “Heart Prairie.” When this property was for sale in a subdivision of small lots, Charlotte and Bernie bought 7 of them, saving a 1.6 acre piece of prairie history. The property is unique in its location on a small lake, called North Lake, near Whitewater, WI. This property contains some of the best remaining woodlands, wetlands, undeveloped shore lands, flood lands, and wildlife habitat in southeastern Wisconsin. This Preserve happened to be a future part of a Primary Environmental Corridor and is near the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Since buying the property they have been managing its native habitats and enjoying these wonders.
 
Charlotte shared a story with us about her background that grew into a love of nature and eventually the Preserve’s history: “When I was 6 years old, and my sister 4, my family summered in a lonely log cabin located on Lake McDonald in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Its primitive amenities included an outhouse, outdoor hand water pump, kerosene lamps, and a beautiful lake in which we bathed. My mother picked raspberries and made jam on the wood stove. A bold attack by a male red-winged blackbird triggered my awareness of the beauty and mystery of nature. During my husband’s early years in Iowa, he experienced country roads, picking strawberries and a relative’s farm. Coinciding interests led to bird watching in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, walking in the forest preserves and acquiring a place to bird watch and walk on at North Lake in Walworth County, Wisconsin.
 
A 1935 historical account credits James Holden with the first settlement in 1837 of what he designated “Heart Prairie.” He ‘viewed his future domain from a high bluff laying west thereof, when the shape of the prairie in the midst of surrounding timber suggested the name he gave it.’ Included in the property was ‘the lake which was long known by his name, recently rechristened ‘North Lake,’ by resort promoters.’ According to a 1970 Wisconsin DNR report, ‘The greatest value in North Lake rests with its marsh fringe and bordering wetlands to the west. The lake has supported bullfrogs for years, a unique attribute shared by few lakes in southeastern Wisconsin, game and song birds, marsh animals, and the shallow, often glass-smooth water are prime aesthetic values.’

On North Lake we indulged our fascination with nature watching sand hill cranes raise a baby, raccoons watching eastern snapping turtles laying eggs in our gravel driveway, muskrats swimming and playing on and around a lodge, and a snake sunning atop some flowers. The view from our location on the banks of a narrow portion of the marshy lake included floating cattail bogs and yellow and white water lilies, which looked particularly beautiful against trees on the water’s opposite side. We bought a number of small lots across the lake until the project became unaffordable when development began. In addition to its woodlands, wetlands and shore, the property holds a dry or perhaps a hill prairie.

In 2006, we entered into an easement with Kettle Moraine Land Trust and erected signs designating the protected site the Charlotte Adelman and Bernard L. Schwartz Preserve. We hung a “Heart Prairie” sign on our porch. Transferring title of our small but remarkably diverse preserve to the Prairie Enthusiasts in 2015 ensures it will always have the respect and care it deserves.  We are grateful to the Prairie Enthusiasts for accepting this responsibility.”

The Adelmanns were attorneys who retired early to devote themselves to environmental issues. Charlotte and Bernie are co-authors of The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants (http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/ The+Midwestern+Native+Garden), Prairie Directory of North America – The United States, Canada and Mexico (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/prairie-directory-of-north-america-9780195366952?cc=us&lang=en&), and the forthcoming, Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees: Gardening Alternatives to Nonnative Species  (http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Midwestern+Native+Shrubs+and+Trees)..

North Lake is in a region described by the Wisconsin DNR as the Southeast Glacial Plains Ecological Landscape. It is an area made up of glacial till plains and moraines, with much of the glacial materials deposited during the Wisconsin Ice Age. The soils are a product of that ice age, including silt loam and excessively drained sandy soil. The native ecosystems surrounding North Lake prior to European settlement were oak savanna, oak forest and prairie.  This remnant is in an area that was historically oak savanna

The Schwartz-Adelman property still retains some of the pre-European settlement vegetation and is more likely an oak savanna remnant. It is dominated by grasses, including big and little bluestem, Indian grass, and side oats drama, with rock sandwort, whorled milkweed, common milkweed, thimbleweed, purple prairie clover, fleabane, flowering spurge, false sunflower, ground cherry, yellow coneflower, Canada golden rod and spiderwort among others. It is threatened by white sweet clover, buckthorn, smooth sumac, honey suckle and quaking aspen. Some of the prairie has been overtaken by brush.

The vegetation between the shore and the prairie has succeeded to woodland,  however, there is an old bur oak located within this woodland that probably dates to pre-settlement times. This tree spreads broadly and las low branches that grow out horizontally, a characteristic trait of bur oaks growing in an open savanna environment. 

The Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission has delineated portions of this property as primary environmental corridor. These primary sites are named as such because they contain the best remaining woodlands, wetlands, wildlife habitats and undeveloped shoreline in SE WI.

This preserve became the first property of TPE’s Glacial Prairie Chapter. With the leadership of Walter and Alice Mirk and Site Steward Zach Kastern, chapter members and volunteers have been out removing thistle, girdling aspen and removing sumac. Zack decided to become Site Steward when he learned the Preserve was near his home and because this role matched his interests in ecological restoration, pollinator support movements, and experience with the State Natural Areas program. He says his experience gives him an eye for restoration. “Most people can just stroll through an area and comment on the ‘beautiful nature’ around them without understanding what they are really looking at. They see flowers and small trees, and then I chime in about all the invasives like dame’s rocket, buckthorn and honeysuckle I see and what needs to be done.” And he is out doing it.

The Glacial Prairie Chapter is in the process of creating a formal management plan for this prairie remnant.  The plan will include removal of woody vegetation, restoring the oak savanna out of the encroaching woodland, shrub and other invasive species removal, and eventually prescribed burns. 

When you are ready to see this unique remnant or help with restoration projects get ahold of the Chapter, or visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThePrairieEnthusiastGlacialPrairieChapter.

We are so thankful for Charlotte and Bernie’s generous donation and look forward to partnering with the Kettle Moraine Land Trust. Together we are grassroots conservation in action!


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