Dane County officials announced on Thursday a plan to buy and preserve the land along the southern shore of Lake Waubesa for public use.
County Executive Joe Parisi unveiled the proposed 40-acre purchase Thursday afternoon before it was introduced by Sup. Patrick Miles, 34th District, at Thursday evening's County Board meeting.
Parisi said the purchase price is the appraised value of $482,000, but the county would be on the hook for no more than $199,000 if the purchase is approved by the Dane County Board. The Natural Heritage Land Trust has sponsored a grant application to the Department of Natural Resources, which would cover up to 50 percent of the purchase price, if approved. The Town of Dunn could also contribute up to $91,500 upon resident approval.
Parisi said the county is interested in the land because of its proximity to the Waubesa Wetlands State Natural Area.
"One of the things that we strive for is to provide access to all of our wonderful lakes that we have in Dane County. This will be another area where people can come down, put a canoe in, walk along the lake edge and see all the great things that are going on here," Parisi said.
Amid tight local government budgets, Miles said the purchase is an appropriate land acquisition because it helps the county preserve the health of Lake Waubesa and increases accessibility to the already public lands adjacent to the property.
"Each election year we seem to hear criticism about the county making acquisitions such as this. To that I say that I'm going to be proud tonight to introduce a resolution authorizing this acquisition because it meets the two critical criteria I've laid out to my constituents," Miles said.
Cal DeWitt, a professor of wetland ecology at UW-Madison, has lived near the marsh since he moved to Madison in 1972. DeWitt teaches a course on the wetland for graduate students and has been working with neighbors to preserve the wetlands south of Waubesa since the mid-1970s.
DeWitt said the roughly 1,000-acre preserve was entirely privately owned in the 1970s. DeWitt taught neighbors about the wetland and the surrounding areas and gradually landowners began contributing their land to what would become the nature preserve.
"When I moved here in 1972, the first thing I did was to develop a strategy for preserving this ecosystem. So for me this is a personal culmination of an effort that was begun in '73," he said.
DeWitt said the Waubesa Wetlands have been described as one of the best and most diverse wetlands in the southern three tiers of counties in Wisconsin. The wetland is home to over 70 species of birds, a large number fish species and several rare small mammals.