Friends of Cherokee Marsh Newsletter Dec 2016 / Jan 2017
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Cherokee Marsh


Dec 2016 / Jan 2017

In this edition

10th anniversary annual meeting to feature talk on cranes

We’re having a party! Mark your calendar for our annual member meeting and celebration of our 10th anniversary on Saturday, January 21, 10 am – 12 noon at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center.

We are excited to announce that our special presentation this year will be Cranes: Ambassadors for Conservation, with Richard Beilfuss, President and CEO of the International Crane Foundation.

Cranes are among the most endangered families of birds in the world with 11 of the 15 crane species threatened and many populations in peril. We’ll explore the role of cranes as sentinels and flagships for conservation worldwide including protecting critical habitat areas for endangered whooping cranes on their wintering grounds in Texas. We’ll also highlight the unique story of crane recovery here in Wisconsin and the role of cranes in conserving some of our most treasured landscapes.

At 10 am, before the presentation, we’ll hold a short business meeting to celebrate our anniversary and elect directors for 2017-2018.

This event is free and family friendly. Everyone, member and non-member, is welcome to attend. If you need further enticement, we’ll have refreshments and our popular door prizes donated by local businesses plus some special children’s prizes.

Saturday, January 21, 10 am – 12 noon
10:00 – 10:30 am—member meeting: accomplishments
and future plans, elect directors
10:30 – 11:30 am—Cranes: Ambassadors for Conservation, with Richard Beilfuss from the International Crane Foundation
11:30 – 11:45 am—Door prizes and social hour

Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625
Northport Dr, Madison 53704

We celebrate ten years!

In 2017, the Friends of Cherokee Marsh will celebrate our tenth anniversary as a nonprofit group. From its beginnings as a loose group of advocates responding to a development proposal, the Friends has grown to an organization with 200 members.

The event that sparked the group’s formation was a public meeting in 2006 where City of Madison staff introduced a proposed plan for Cherokee Park, Inc., to develop 260 acres in six parcels adjacent to Cherokee Marsh. Following the meeting, Northsiders Ellen Barnard and Pat Woicek began a conversation about the best way for the public to respond to the plan to protect the marsh as much as possible. 

Concerns about the development plan included keeping polluted urban storm water out of the wetlands, providing protected buffer land between the wetlands and developed areas, and maintaining expanses of habitat for wildlife.

Ellen approached Northside Planning Council (NPC) Director Jim Powell for advice on advocating for the marsh. Jim suggested forming a group and giving it a name, so Ellen, Pat, and other supporters began using the name Friends of Cherokee Marsh, though formal organization came later.

NPC arranged for representatives of the group to present the issues to Mayor Dave Cieslewicz at one of NPC’s quarterly meetings. Ellen recalls that “it really was the NPC’s support and encouragement that gave us the starting oomph.”

In gatherings at Muriel Simms’ house, the group coordinated sending people to speak at public meetings. The Northside News provided detailed coverage of the plan and the public’s response to it.

In public meetings at Sherman Avenue United Methodist Church, the Wisconsin River Alliance helped the group organize more formally.

The final plan, approved by the Common Council in 2007, included much of what the Friends had advocated for. At the same time, the city reached an agreement with CPI to buy over 200 acres of wetlands and 20 acres of upland adjacent to Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park. The city has since added this land (and more) to the park, restoring the wetlands and planting the upland to prairie.

Ten years later, we continue to advocate for land and water protection. Our volunteers work to restore prairie and wetlands in Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, Yahara Heights County Park, and the Cherokee Marsh State Natural Area. We raise money to support outdoor environmental education through the Madison School District. We established the Cherokee Marsh Conservation Fund to provide a permanent source of funding for conservation of the marsh. And we sponsor events for the public including monthly bird and nature walks.

We thank all of our members and supporters over the years, and we hope you will join us as we look forward to continuing our activities to protect, preserve, restore, and enjoy Cherokee Marsh, our wetland gem.

A version of this article appeared in the Northside News.

Order your 10th anniversary T-shirt!

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we decided to make a T-shirt! The design features our logo and the message Celebrating 10 years 2007 - 2017.

The shirts are white organic cotton with short sleeves and available in men's and women's sizes.

The shirts are available for a limited time only. We must receive your order by Dec 31, 2016. You can order by mail or online.

We expect to mail or deliver the shirts in late January/early February.

All profits from the shirts will go to support hands-on environmental education at Cherokee Marsh.

It's time to renew your membership

Show your support for Cherokee Marsh and the Friends of Cherokee Marsh by renewing your membership.

Your member dues help fund our activities to protect, preserve, and restore Dane County’s largest wetland. And this year, for a limited time only, you can also order a Friends of Cherokee Marsh 10th Anniversary T-shirt along with your renewal.

Is my membership up for renewal?

All memberships expire on December 31. If you joined the Friends after June 30, 2016, your membership is paid through December 31, 2017. For everyone else, it’s time to renew. If you’re not sure when you joined, contact us at or (608) 215-0426.

As a member, you’ll receive our newsletter six times a year, and you’ll know that you’re helping to protect and preserve a healthy Cherokee Marsh.

How to renew

Fill out and mail the member form or join or renew online. With either method, you can join or renew your membership, make additional contributions, and order a T-shirt.

Support the Conservation Fund

When you renew, please also consider including a donation to the Cherokee Marsh Conservation Fund. The fund pays a yearly dividend to support conservation at Cherokee Marsh. The dividends grow as the fund grows, providing a permanent source of funding for the marsh.

Support hands-on, outdoor environmental education

We also ask you to consider donating to bring local schoolchildren to Cherokee Marsh for hands-on environmental education. The Madison Area School District sponsors uses hands-on learning to teach children about wetlands and their importance. The school district provides trained naturalist guides, but the classes are responsible for transportation, and many classes struggle to find money to charter a bus. A donation of $45 buys transportation for 20 kids.

A membership is a perfect gift

If you know someone who loves Cherokee Marsh, consider giving them a gift membership to the Friends this holiday season or as a birthday gift.

What we did in 2016

2016 was another busy year as we continued and expanded our activities to protect, preserve, and enjoy Cherokee Marsh. Here are some highlights.

We restored natural communities


Volunteers Tim Nelson and Jim Hughes take a break in the Cherokee Marsh State Natural Area.

In the Cherokee Marsh State Natural Area (SNA), in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), volunteers continued in our project to remove invasive giant reed grass (phragmites) from the high-quality wetlands. We also pulled garlic mustard in Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park with the Madison Area Weed Warriors and removed invasives and collected prairie seeds with County Park volunteers at Yahara Heights County Park. 

The Cherokee Marsh Conservation Fund, started by us in 2013 and managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, now holds over $21,000 to provide a permanent source of funding for conservation of the marsh. The DNR crew plans to use this year’s distribution to fund a crew to control invasives in the Cherokee Marsh State Natural Area

We advocated for a healthy marsh

Commercial fisherman net carp at Cherokee Lake.

We worked with the Clean Lakes Alliance and Dane County to provide funding for carp removal in the upper Yahara River. We began working with Dane County to find a solution to shoreline erosion on the upper Yahara River.

We provided input on the plans for a new stormwater pond along Wheeler Rd and an improved entrance to South Cherokee.

We contributed $1250, including $175 from our Benvenutos fundraiser and an additional $320 donated by Friends members, to bring schoolchildren to the marsh for hands-on, outdoor environmental education. We provided information cards to inform teachers about the marsh and how to schedule a guided visit for their classes. We led a tour to introduce the naturalist guides to the conservation park.

We talked to folks and shared stories while tabling at the Northside Farmers Market, and we kept you informed with our newsletter, Facebook page, website, emails, and Northside News articles.

We explored and had fun!

Our bird and nature walks have proved to be very popular.

Our monthly, guided Bird and Nature walks continue to draw folks from around the city and beyond.

Other tours we cosponsored and promoted included a warbler walk, woodcock walk, paddle tour, butterfly walk, Hayrides and Hikes, and a candlelight hike. Our tour partners included Madison Audubon Society, Madison Parks, the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association, and new this year, the Sierra Club Four Lakes Group and Outdoor Afro. With the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, we sponsored two fundraiser tours for the Cherokee Marsh Conservation Fund.

Thanks to a generous donation by member Mike Rewey, Cherokee Park has a new purple martin house with member Ellen Barnard as caretaker.

We supported Master Naturalist training on Madison’s North Side with a scholarship to Kathlean Wolf.

We sponsored a presentation about bats at our 2016 annual meeting.

You make it possible

Guide Alex Singer gathers a group for a bird and nature walk.

With your support and participation, we can continue to expand our activities to promote land and water protection, restoration, education, and enjoyment of Cherokee Marsh. If you have ideas for activities or would like to help, we want to hear from you. Call (608) 215-0426, write (, or attend one of our monthly meetings.

Meet the director candidates for 20172018

Our Board of Directors is responsible for planning, coordinating, communicating and managing the activities of our organization. At our annual member meeting, members elect directors for the coming two years.

The board usually meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 pm at the Lakeview Branch of the Madison Public Library, 2845 N. Sherman Ave. All meetings are open to members and the public. To confirm the time or request an agenda, or if you’re interested in joining the board or helping out on a committee, contact Jan at (608) 215-0426 or

Directors Jan Axelson, Jim Krause, Paul Noeldner, Dick Walker, Anita Weier, and Dorothy Wheeler are in the middle of their 2-year terms and thus aren’t up for re-election.

Here are statements from the six announced candidates for six positions with terms that will end at our member meeting in January, 2019: 

Timothy Baker

Since moving to East Madison in 2008, I have found Cherokee Marsh to be a great place to walk and explore nature with my wife, Beth, and two small children, Della and Dorothy. Before that, as a Middleton resident and regular fisherman, I was interested in the marsh as an obviously important component of the lakes and wetlands system that defines the Madison area.

Concerned about the health of the marsh, especially in the face of potential development, I joined the FOCM board in 2010. It is my intent to help the FOCM strengthen efforts to educate the public and advocate for the health of the marsh ecosystem. I am especially interested in native plants, birds, and aquatic life. I also serve on the City of Madison Committee on the Environment and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities including birding, fishing, hunting, and native plant restoration.

Janet Battista

I am a founding member of the Friends of Cherokee Marsh. The Friends have been influential in resisting new development encroaching on the marsh, in bringing Madison school children to experience the marsh, and in supporting efforts to restore the many native ecosystems within the marsh. I hope to continue on the board to try to maintain and extend these achievements.

Dana Erlandsen

As a Northside resident who regularly walks, paddles, and skis in Cherokee Marsh, the Marsh is part of my life in all seasons. I would like to keep using my experience with other nonprofit organizations and as a lawyer to benefit Cherokee Marsh. I have worked to help to the Friends increase awareness of the Marsh, as well as to help protect and restore the Marsh so it can continue to serve as a haven for plants and animals, a filter for the watershed, and a bit of serenity in our neighborhood. I am proud of the work we have done—establishing the Fund for the Marsh, paying for buses so school children can learn about the marsh, leading public hikes and paddles, removal of invasive plants—and look forward to doing more.

Russ Hefty

I developed a love of nature thanks to my parents who shared their love of plants and birds with me. We took family vacations to see Yellowstone National Park, Grand Tetons, Devil’s Tower and other remarkable places that sparked my interest in conservation. As a teenager my first conservation action was salvaging native prairie plants from a nearby stone quarry, and transplanting them in our yard. A conversation between my parents and Wayne Pauly at the Dane County Fair led me to volunteering at the Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary near Arlington. This eventually led to me becoming the first college student intern at Goose Pond Sanctuary.

I received a Horticulture degree with an emphasis on natural resources from the UW and started work for the City of Madison as a season conservation ranger in 1980. From 1991- 2016, I was privileged to lead Madison’s conservation parks as the Conservation Resource Supervisor. Cherokee Marsh has always been one of my favorite parks as it offered the opportunity to restore native plant and animal communities on a large landscape scale like no other place in Madison. I have led efforts to save the peat wetlands along the Upper Yahara River
for the past 15 years. More recently we’ve worked on restoring a large oak savanna / prairie complex and our efforts were rewarded when red-headed woodpeckers nested there for the first time in decades.

In January 2016, I retired from the City of Madison Park Division after 34 years of service. Serving on the Board of Directors of the Friends of Cherokee Marsh has allowed me to stay involved in protecting this very special resource.

Lesleigh Luttrell

It would be an honor to continue to serve on the Friends of Cherokee Marsh board as the organization begins a second decade of working to protect, preserve and restore the marsh. I have lived on the Northside for more than 30 years, and have been involved with a number of organizations, including Friends of Lakeview Library, NESCO and the Sherman Neighborhood Association. I know how important the Marsh is to people of all ages and how lucky we are to have this resource on the Northside. The families who join our first Sunday walks, the school children who go on field trips to the Marsh with transportation paid for by the Friends, the keepers of the Marsh and the watershed who benefit from the Cherokee Marsh Conservation Fund—these are what make my work on the Friends Board rewarding. Not to mention the benefit of free nature recreation that allows all of us to enjoy the birds, mammals, plants, reptiles and amphibians that make the Marsh their home. I thank you for your support.

Mary Manering

As a Madison native and a 36 year resident of the Cherokee Marsh area, I am pleased to submit my name as a candidate for the Friends of Cherokee Marsh Board.  It is important to me to be involved in activities to improve the health of the marsh in order to provide necessary habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for those who treasure everything the marsh and neighboring lands have to offer. My commitment to the environment is demonstrated by my participation in a number of organizations including: 20 year naturalist at the International Crane Foundation, water quality monitor with the Rock River Coalition, former naturalist with the Madison Metropolitan School District leading tours at Cherokee Marsh, kestrel nesting box monitor with the Madison Audubon Society and assisting with the restoration of prairies and savannas in Dane County. I welcome the opportunity to be a Board member of the Friends of Cherokee Marsh to further my goals to protect and improve the Marsh and to be involved with efforts to expose more people to the Marsh and the importance of the natural world in our lives.

To keep the terms balanced, we have one announced candidate for a 1-year term that will end at our member meeting in January, 2018:

Don Hammes

I have had a life long love of nature that began as a child and continued with my studies at the University of Wisconsin. Throughout my adult life I have devoted myself to protecting and enhancing Wisconsin's natural resources. I am a member and past president of the Dane County Conservation League. I am a member and past vice president of the Yahara Fishing Club.

I am a founding member of the Friends of Pheasant Branch, and I am a founding member and advisor to the Friends of Cherokee Marsh. I am vice chair of the Sierra Club of Wisconsin - John Muir Chapter. I am a former director and wetlands committee chair of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. The Cherokee marsh is very important to me. I know it is a beautiful wetland that is essential to the health of Lake Mendota and the Yahara River. The flora and fauna of the marsh are outstanding. I would like to be a director on the Friends of Cherokee Marsh board so that I can use my knowledge and skills to help protect and enhance this wetland gem.


Due to time and scheduling conflicts, Director Justin Sargent will be ending his time on the board with us in January. We thank him for serving with us and will miss his insights and good humor.

Upcoming events

See full calendar

Bird and nature walks

Sun, Dec 4, 1:30pm – 3:00pm with naturalist guide Lois Komai. Experience the "quiet time" and explore evidence of animal life and ways in which the plants and animals prepare to live and protect themselves during the winter.
Sun, Jan 1, 1:30pm – 3:00pm
with naturalist guide Paul Noeldner. 
first Sunday of every month, ALWAYS 1:30pm – 3:00pm

Free, family-friendly bird and nature walk.

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, North Unit, 6098 N. Sherman Ave. Follow N. Sherman Ave. north to the parking lot at the end of the gravel road.  (map)

Sponsored by Madison Parks, the Friends of Cherokee Marsh and Madison Audubon Society. Questions? Contact Paul Noeldner at (608)-698-0104 or

Annual meeting + Cranes: Ambassadors for Conservation

Sat, January 21, 10am – 12pm

Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Dr, Madison, WI 53704, USA (map)

More details above.

Candlelight snowshoe hike

Saturday, January 28, 6:30 – 8:30 pm (come anytime from 6:30 on)

Our candlelight event is back! Tour the marsh on snowshoes by candlelight. Then warm up with hot cider by the fire. Bring your own snowshoes. If there is no snow or little snow cover, the event will be a walk.

Sponsored by the Friends of Cherokee Marsh and Madison Parks. If you have questions or would like to help set up the event (we need volunteers!), contact or call (608) 215-0426.

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park, North Unit. 6098 N. Sherman Ave. Travel north on N. Sherman Ave to the main parking lot at the end of the gravel road.  (map)

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