UW- Whitewater is fortunate to have over 120 acres of land identified for open or general recreational use and over 100 acres of that is designated as the UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve. This page will familiarize you with this valuable resource found right here on campus. If you would like additional information, please contact us with your questions.
The Nature Preserve boasts over five miles of trails through a variety of ecosystems, including woodlands, wetlands, prairie, and others. New in 2021, a trail system map was created for the Preserve. Click on this link to access the PDF version of the map. Simply choose the trail you would like to hike, and follow the colored arrows! We used recycled metal signs to create trail marker signs throughout the Preserve.
The Nature Preserve was purchased in sections to create what now is 100 acres of protected land. In 1970, Friar’s Woods was purchased to preserve the 40 acre oak dominant hardwood forest and create a space for outdoor education to be used by various natural science classes and research. Starting in the early 1980’s, the additional 60 acres was purchased in sections and once featured an obstacle course and trails throughout what was once a dairy farm. At one point, the University and Fairhaven conducted a ‘ land swap’ in order for us to gain a small section of the land northwest corner of the prairie, and Fairhaven gained land at the northeast corner of the prairie to construct a road for southern access to their new development.
The land that constitutes the Nature Preserve was purchased through a federal conservation grant commonly referred to on campus as LAWCON, now known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The is a federal program that funds grants for conservation and recreational efforts. Because this land was purchased with those funds, the Nature Preserve property has certain restrictions for what can be done to develop the property, which needs to fall under a conservation or recreational category.
Soon after being purchased, individuals working at UW-Whitewater and from the surrounding Whitewater community felt reconstruction of the prairie was the best option to restore a native ecosystem typical of pre-settlement vegetation in our area. Since the land was used for agricultural purposes before purchase, the work of clearing invasive species and reconstructing a new plant community would take a while. Starting in 1992, prairie reconstruction began under the guidance of a committee of campus and community participants. Dr. Richard James was influential in this process, as he spearheaded many of the efforts to reconstruct the prairie, and his contributions are recognized with an honorary burr oak tree planted near the Hoffman Kiosk trailhead.
The Nature Preserve is managed by the UW-Whitewater Facilities Planning and Management Grounds Crew and the UW-Whitewater Sustainability Office. The Grounds Crew maintains trails, conducts controlled burns, and monitors other hazards for removal as needed. The Sustainability Office conducts volunteer sessions focused on various management tasks. Seed collection occurs in fall and the gathered seeds are used for planting new areas of the prairie, establishing more diverse plants in previously seeded areas, used for natural landscaping through the rest of campus, or donated to other non-profit organizations for their restoration projects. Invasive species removal sessions primarily targeting garlic mustard in May and woody invasives like buckthorn and honeysuckle throughout the year, but especially during winter months. You can learn more about our volunteer opportunities here. The Sustainability Office also offers various class and community tours to learn more about the native plant life that inhabits the reconstructed areas of prairie.
There is also an advisory sub-committee of the Campus Landscape and Planning Committee populated by various members of the UW-Whitewater faculty and staff and several members of the community. This advisory committee helps inform decisions to protect the well-being and ecological integrity of the Nature Preserve while balancing the needs and access of academic and recreational uses.
UW-Whitewater created this land acknowledgement in order to honor and respect the Native peoples who resided on this land far before our institution did. Please remember this as you enjoy your time in the Nature Preserve, and help us be respectful stewards of this land.