Spring at Iris Drive Prairie
Five hundred volunteer hours and a tireless determination to open and expose the seedbank at our newly acquired Iris Drive Prairie will be tested this growing season. Gary Eldred, Gary Adams and friends are the leaders of this effort and anticipate what the coming season will bring.This crew, like many others in the past, has worked a miracle. Over the course of the winter, they cleared a six acre remnant of a thick overgrowth of brush and trees. Tractors and brush hogs were brought in to push through the immense tangle of canes and vines as a supplement to the usual chainsaws, clippers and elbow grease.
I had the opportunity to visit Iris Drive Prairie with Gary Eldred and the crew in mid-March. We walked and talked over the progress and then got to work, tackling a few of the remaining trees and part of a vast stand of sumac still covering some of the hillside.
Between chainsaw work and branch piling, stories were shared about the history, acquisition, and new techniques used to clear the great snarl of overgrowth covering this beautiful prairie. I was there to witness what I had not thought possible, the opening up of this second multi-acre remnant. Today I was excited to see the progress I had heard about.
Last year, when I had tried to walk this same land, my clothing was ripped and shredded by the gnarly, spiked undergrowth. Despite this, I had seen the remnant grasses poking through. This site again demonstrates how a small group of determined and ingenious volunteers can bring back the native landscape. This work is at the heart of our Prairie Enthusiasts community; vision, volunteerism and land management know-how.
Join Gary for a field trip this August 5th at 10:00 a.m. and witness for yourself, the wondrous grasses and forbs blooming on these hillsides. Learn about and see what this seedbank has in store for this next season of recovery. Gary is hopeful that there are numerous remnant species biding their time and awaiting this chance to return.
You can also hear Gary's prairie stories by joining the weekly work party at Iris Drive. These take place each Thursday morning from 9-12. You may be lucky enough to join the crew for lunch too at a nearby deli after an invigorating morning of activity. Call ahead to be sure Gary and the crew will be there, (608) 375-5271.
An encounter on the land with these volunteers may open up your seedbank as well. You are welcome to become an enduring part of one of TPE's various site communities. Join in to keep an eye on a particular site year round and enjoy the views and restoration progress as your chosen prairie grows into the future.
Grassroots Conservation in Action is apparent at Iris Drive Prairie and shows the success of TPE's founder and friends as they tackle a prairie remnant in the hills and valleys of Wisconsin's Driftless region. There was darkness and now there is light, hope springs in perpetuity, thanks to Gary… and your prairie enthusiasm too!