Lying within a half hour’s drive of Stevens Point, Wausau and Wisconsin Rapids is an outdoor recreational gem known as the George W. Mead Wildlife Area. Presented to the citizens of Wisconsin to be used for all time for wildlife conservation, this enormous chunk of public land contains over 33,000 acres of wetlands, forests and grasslands, and is home to over 267 species of birds as well as most native species of plants, insects and mammals.
Like many other public wildlife areas scattered across the state, it has attracted dedicated local residents, who embrace its borders like adoptive parents and volunteer their time under a legally organized group appropriately called the “Friends”. I recently attended their annual meeting.
According to the official wildlife area website, “The Friends of the Mead/McMillan Association, Inc. (the “Friends”) is a private, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the purpose of protecting the Mead and McMillan wildlife areas and in assisting with educational, wildlife, interpretive, and management activities. The Friends incorporated on April 25, 1996 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The organization is composed of individuals from many different backgrounds interested in increasing public understanding, appreciation, support, and enjoyment of wildlife. The Friends currently has over 200 members and a 15 member Board of Directors to oversee operations.”
I first became aware of the group when they successfully raised a large sum of needed matching funds to complete the construction of the innovative, award-winning green design Stanton W. Mead Education and Visitor Center and hire a full-time natural resources educator – and now provide outdoor education to more than 3,500 area youth annually.
The goals of the Friends are to increase funding for educational support, improve access and use of the handicap facilities on the property, create citizen support for the management activities, expand and promote a walking trail system, promote the Mead as a birding area, purchase much needed operational and habitat maintenance equipment, provide updated maps of the property and create a trail system with viewing areas.
I recently found out that an exciting new addition to their walking trail system, called the “Ephemeral Boardwalk” is well underway. No. 1 son and I stumbled on this project late last year while grouse hunting near the project office. At the annual meeting I discovered this connecting link is between two existing trails and will create a two mile interpretive walkway through wetlands, grasslands and forest. The Friends currently have a unique “Adopt a Boardwalk Program” that allows individuals, organizations and businesses across the state share their tax deductible financial support. Buying a section of boardwalk, interpretive panel or Aldo Leopold memorial bench and having yours, or a loved one’s name displayed on a plaque will go a long way towards reaching the Friend’s mission.
For more information on donating to the boardwalk, joining the Friends group or just learning more about the Mead Wildlife Area, visit their website at www.meadwildlife.org.
Ken M. Blomberg is a freelance writer and longtime resident of the Town of Eau Pleine, northeast of Junction City. A 1976 graduate of UWSP in Resource Management, he is currently Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Water Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org