Whitewater considering plan to maintain effigy mounds
The landmarks commission in early July approved portions of a 21-page maintenance plan intended to improve the area around the mounds on the city’s west side. Commission members are awaiting adoption by the parks committee, which could come at its meeting Monday, before the proposals are reviewed by the city council.
The complete plan details spending close to $130,000 in donations and tax dollars over several years. It proposes a controlled burn regimen, planting trees and building a visitors center.
Whitewater’s 14 effigy mounds are estimated to be between 700 and 1,100 years old. They are shaped like birds, minks and other spiritual beings and are considered burial sites for Native Americans.
Preservation efforts on the site began in late 2010. Earlier this year, the city conducted a controlled burn to rid the area of invasive plants. It also purchased a new 6-foot sign, replacing a sign that was largely unnoticed by passersby.
The proposed plan includes several elements, but the landmarks commission approved just a few in hopes of hurrying the process and beginning work this summer.
The commission agreed to establish boundary markers along the property to distinguish the area from neighboring residences. It also hopes to begin a burn regimen and add additional oak savanna on parts of the property.
Mariann Scott, chairwoman of the landmarks commission, said a controlled burn earlier this year, along with other cleanup efforts at the site, already have the mounds in much better shape.
“We get to see not only the mounds, but the mounds in how they originally looked,” she said. “That was very exciting for us. What we need, though, is to stick with what (the commission) is charged with, which is preserving the site and maintaining it.”
Another issue that’s being worked out at the city level is what will happen to a fence built on top of a mound by a nearby resident.
It appears city officials are close to an agreement to remove the fence. Approval of a deal was on the city council’s agenda for Monday’s meeting, but it was removed to allow for more time to speak with neighbors, City Clerk Michele Smith said.
It could return at the council’s meeting in mid-August.
Scott hopes to conduct another burn at the site before the end of the year. The prescribed burn in April covered only part of the area.