Magnolia Bluff Park to get a little help from friends
Hikers could see for miles on the chilly, crisp morning from a lookout spot high above the surrounding farms, homes and trees.
The park also offered evidence of the negative impact of human interference. The path leading to the lookout point had eroded from decades of human footsteps. A group of nearby trees was just beginning to heal from graffiti carved into them with an ax several years ago.
Area picnic tables were bolted to the ground to prevent teenagers from throwing them over the bluff. If you look carefully, you can often see bottles and other garbage at the base from careless or destructive park-goers, neighbors say.
Now, those neighbors and others who love the park want to offer some positive human impact. More than 20 gathered Saturday to form a “friends” group for the park on the western edge of the county, hoping to preserve its beauty for hikers, horseback riders and nature lovers for decades to come.
“Wisconsin used to be one big, beautiful natural area,” said Kevin Kawula, a member of the Rock County Conservationists. “We’re down to 1 percent of those natural areas, and Magnolia Bluff Park is one of them.”
Kawula helped organize the meeting with Rob Baller, community coordinator for the parks division of the Rock County Department of Public Works. Baller pointed out the success of other friends groups in the county, such as those for Beckman Mill Park and Carver-Roehl Park.
Besides erosion and vandalism, a major problem at the park is invasive species such as garlic mustard and buckthorn, Kawula said.
DeAnn Howard, who lives across the street from the park and often rides a horse on the trails there, said she has seen the park deteriorate. Garlic mustard has become a huge problem over the last year, she said.
“We need somebody who knows what they’re doing,” she said.
Baller, an ecologist by training, hopes to fill that role. He discussed steps the group can take next, such as redistributing mulch around trees and clearing the invasive plants.
Tensions flared early in the meeting as some argued horseback riders are causing additional erosion by using trails meant for hikers. Several riders were present and denied the charge.
But that’s a discussion for later, Kawula said.
“The good news is, there is enough work to be done, and the trails will be determined at a later date,” he said.
“The idea is if we can get the rules of nature satisfied, there’s enough room for everybody.”
TO GET INVOLVED
The Friends of Magnolia Bluff Park can be reached through Rob Baller at (608) 757-5473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.