Earth Day activities: butterflies to beaches

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Staff | April 18, 2014

It started in 1970, when gas was leaded and a lot cheaper, smog was more plentiful, and the word “environment” wasn't much in the public vocabulary.

The idea of Earth Day came from a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, who saw the ecological devastation of an oil spill in California in 1969. Hoping to raise public awareness on the environment, he got a colleague, Rep. Pete McClosky, to serve as co-chair, and found a coordinator to help create a national event on April 22 of that year.

Americans embraced the idea, and used Earth Day to look more closely at topics ranging from oil spills, pollution from factories and power plants, sewage, toxic dumps and pesticides, to declining wildlife and disappearing wilderness areas.

By 1990, Earth Day went global, as more countries realized their interdependence with the earth.

The original issues of Earth Day have increased to look at such issues as climate change and clean energy, but people still are concerned with maintaining natural resources and a healthy environment.

Join in the celebration, discussion and activities. Here are a few opportunities for local Earth Day events:

Saturday, April 19
Help out and enjoy Wisconsin state park, forest, trail and wildlife properties--including Big Foot Beach in Walworth County--during the sixth annual Work*Play*Earth Day. Volunteer events are sponsored by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks and Department of Natural Resources properties.

Volunteers can join DNR staff, local Friends group members, and people from nearby communities to help repair and enhance park, forest and trail properties. Activities include planting trees and shrubs, installing benches, removing invasive plants, painting picnic tables and other structures, raking and cleaning up leaves and picking up litter. Refreshments will be provided and Friends of Wisconsin State Parks will also provide appreciation gifts for volunteers.

Volunteers can help on Saturday, April 19 at Big Foot Beach State Park in Lake Geneva, and Saturday, April 26 at the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit in Eagle. For start times and more details, call (262) 248-2528 for the Big Foot event.

Participants should wear work boots or athletic shoes, long pants and bring their own work gloves.

"When the work is done, volunteers join staff in hiking or biking park trails, visiting nature centers or interpretive displays, or enjoying any of the recreational opportunities available at the different properties," said Patty Loosen, friends coordinator for the state parks program.

Loosen says during the 2013 Work *Play* Earth Day events, more than 700 volunteers donated more than 2,500 hours cleaning up and maintaining parks and trails, planting more than 500 trees, doing invasive species work and building bird houses, planting native plants and repairing picnic tables.

For more information on Work*Play*Earth*Day events, call Patricia Loosen, statewide Friends Group coordinator at (608) 264-8994 or

Tuesday, April 22 
Everyone enjoys a butterfly garden and now, with the loss of natural habitat for pollinators, it is important to provide native plants. “Landscaping for Butterflies” is the topic to be presented by Emily and Larry Scheunemann at the April 22 meeting of the Lakeland Audubon Society.

This program will show you how to attract pollinators. The Scheunemanns have documented 34 different butterfly species in their yard in Milton, which they have landscaped for wildlife. They are members of the North America Butterfly Association, the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association and the Wild Ones, where Larry is involved with the Monarch butterfly initiative. The Scheunemanns have been tagging monarchs for five years.

Emily and Larry Scheunemann both are retired school teachers. Larry enjoys wildlife photography and photographed most of the illustrations that they will use in this program.

The program will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Lions Field House, 310 Elkhorn Road (off Wisconsin Highway 67) in Williams Bay.

Bring a friend. The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served before and after the program.
Wednesday, April 23

George Williams College celebrates Earth Day by presenting founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc. Will Allen as part of the Chapin-May Lecture Series for Social Entrepreneurship at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 23, in the Winston Paul Educational Center, 350 Constance Blvd.,Williams Bay. Recognized as the pre-eminent practitioner of urban agriculture in America and the world, Allen started a nonprofit farm to train neighborhood members in building community food systems, traditionally where there is little fresh produce to be found.

According to a Growing Power press release, Allen believes, “If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”

Today, Growing Power Inc. is involved in more than 70 projects and outreach programs in Milwaukee, across the U.S. and throughout the world.

Allen has been awarded the John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation Genius Grant and was made a McArthur Fellow, only the second farmer ever to be honored. In 2010, Time magazine named Allen one of the world's 100 most influential people.

“Allen and his staff use the Growing Power platform to raise public awareness of sustainable community food systems,” said GWC Assistant Academic Dean and Chair of Sustainability and Environmental Management Richard Boniak.

“Their innovative method of food production allows for communities to produce fresh, natural foods on the smallest parcel of land, which can help alleviate food deserts across the nation. This relates to our students because it challenges them to be part of the food revolution in their future communities.”

GWC continues to promote wellness through mind, body and spirit, following the legacy of its original YMCA founders. Working beyond the classroom and learning by doing, students use their local resources to further their studies.

Prior to the April 23 lecture, GWC students will host an herb sale fundraiser, selling organic basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, parsley and rosemary that have been grown at the college's research and education farm.

The Chapin-May Lecture Series brings renowned leaders to GWC to speak about sustainable solutions for societal needs, reflecting on the college's mission of service through self. The series is funded by the Chapin-May Foundation of Illinois.

The April 23 Earth Week event is co-sponsored by the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency and Geneva Lake Conservancy. The lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.

For more information about  Allen and his organization, go online to
Saturday, April 26
Gateway Technical College will hold its Celebrate Earth Day 2014 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, April 26, at its campuses at 3520 30th Ave, Kenosha; and 400 County Highway H, Elkhorn. The event has been expanded to include even more hands-on demonstrations, family-friendly activities and ways community members can be gentle on the environment at work and home.

“Both locations will offer an even greater array of opportunities to learn about the environment and have some fun,” says Gateway marketing director Jayne Herring.

“Those attending the event will not only walk away with what it means to be more earth-friendly, but will gain actual knowledge and skills they can apply in their everyday lives.

“We have a strong, family-friendly component, so bring the children and have some fun while learning a lot about the environment and community organizations involved in environmental endeavors.”

Visitors at each campus will receive a reusable grocery bag, courtesy of event sponsor, Snap-on Incorporated, as well as a variety of other “green” focused items. The event is free and open to the public.

Some of the events on the Elkhorn Campus include:
• Workshops and demonstrations, including the “bug guy,” an SC Johnson display, featuring interesting live insects; a booth showing how honey is processed; and a cooking demonstration using herbs and pesto recipes.

• Children's activities, such as crafts, making a ball-and-cup game from recycled materials, planting a flower and outdoor activities.

• Food vendors and entertainment, featuring The Folk Trio, performing 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

• A petting zoo, consisting of goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, a mini donkey, llama and calf.

• Informational booths from non-profit environmental organizations will have staff to answer questions and offer general information.

For the entire event listing – including campus-specific activities – please go to

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