New Year’s at Crossroads

TRAIL CONDITIONS:  The Collins Learning Center open and the trails are rolled. It is quite chilly here, though.

Pete's Cove PixIn the year 2014, in addition to offering a record number of educational programs,  we at  Crossroads at Big Creek added 74 acres to our preserve. Early in the year, The Nature Conservancy gave us the Ida Bay Preserve. Then, on Friday, December 19,  thanks to a number of foundations and generous donors, Crossroads was able to purchase the nine- acre parcels we call the Big Creek Cove.

Both properties are amazing gifts which we will be thrilled to share with the community. In fact, our traditional  “Sunset on the Old Year” Hike on New Year’s Eve  will begin at 4:00 at the Hanson House (by the little bridge on Utah Street) and we will watch sunset ( or at least, darkness fall)  over Big Creek Cove. Our First Day Outing  on New Year’s Day , depending on snow conditions, will be either a hike or a snowshoe ramble into the Ida Bay Preserve. For this 2:00 outing , participants will meet at the Collins Learning Center and if snow depth is significant,  check out snowshoes before traveling by car to the Zenith Street Entrance of Ida Bay.
Among  my happiest childhood holiday memories:  on several occasions, I received a  special,  highly desired (and probably far too extravagant) present from my parents.
“How will I ever thank you?” I would gush and they invariably answered: “You can show us how grateful you are by taking care of your gift.”
Crossroads  truly is a  gift. Every acre of our three properties, our buildings,  and our educational programs have been made possible by donations from individuals, organizations, businesses, and foundations. The  Crossroads Board of Directors demonstrated their gratitude to supporters by selecting  “Taking Care of What We Have” as the Crossroads  2015 Theme.
In the spring, we will perform structural and environmental upgrades on the Collins Learning Center.  Work will be done on the south side of the building and we also will continue efforts on energy efficient lighting in upper level of building.
The community has been extremely generous in supporting our capital campaign for the Lower Level Learning Space.  We gratefully announce that we  have raised the funds to underwrite the project which, hopefully, will begin as soon as the Ski Season ends. We hope to have the space available for classes and events by summer.
Improving Habitats? During winter and spring, a great deal of study will go into the selecting the plants  which will best enhance wildlife  habitats by providing food and shelter for wildlife. Special effort will be made to plant not just native trees and shrubs, but to establish  those native species that are host plants for insects which form the bottom of the food web.
We are hoping to continue with native plantings around the Collins Center and to create a Bird and Butterfly Garden in the transition area between the mowed lawn area and the surrounding natural areas. The Crossroads Master Plan states that “design considerations for this garden would be a cultivated but natural looking area with a bed layout that would be easily maintained and a selection of plants for birds that would provide adequate nesting habitat and food, water and cover on a year round basis and a selection of plants for butterflies that would provide food and cover for all stages of insect development.”
In the year 2015, we will begin work on the  Jim Maki Arboretum. The Building and Grounds Committee is still discussing options, but again turning to our Master Plan, we hope create “planting islands with drifts or groves of  trees….cultivated for scientific, educational, and ornamental purposes.” The arboretum site is just northeast of our Astronomy Campus.
Ash trees are the dominant species of the wetland areas just off Michigan Street. Now that Emerald Ash Borer has been found at Crossroads, volunteers will put considerable efforts into planting trees beneath the ash grove, so that when the canopy trees succumb, replacement species will fill the void. And of course, throughout the preserve, we will try to remove invasive species so they cannot choke out desirable plants.
Needless to say, we will be working on Management Plans for our newly acquired properties after archaeological surveys are conducted. All efforts will be include educational and volunteer opportunities.
2014 was an amazing year, and if all of our goals are reached, 2015 will be just as rewarding. Happy New Year to all, and to all Crossroads volunteers and supporters, we express heartfelt gratitude. We resolve to Take Care of What We Have.
The Collins Learning Center, located at 2041 Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay.  will be closed New Year’s Day, but otherwise is open 2:00-4:30 daily and during scheduled activities. Trails always are open, but designated Ski Trails are for Skiing Only.
Wednesday, December 31
4:00 Sunset on the Old Year Hike
This year we will see the sun set , or at least watch darkness fall, over Big Creek Cove. Meet at the pulloff on Utah Street across from the Hanson House. Darkness comes early, so we will be back by 4:45. Free and open to the public.
Thursday, January 1
2:00 First Day Outing
Our New Year’s Day outing will, depending on snow conditions, be either a hike or a snowshoe ramble into the Ida Bay Preserve. For this 2:00  hike, participants will meet at the Collins Learning Center and if snow depth is significant,  check out loaner snowshoes before traveling by car to the Zenith Street Entrance of Ida Bay.
Saturday, January 3
2:00 Nature Journaling
This activity for learners of all ages is a great way to start the year. Each participant will receive (free of charge) a beautiful blank journal for recording nature observations. After sharing ideas for journaling, participants will make and share their first entries of 2015. Free and open to the public. Collins Learning Center.

Sunday, January 4
1:00 Snow Sowing
Join the naturalist in a wildflower planting expedition. In snow sowing, wildflower seeds are scattered on the snow surface. The native seeds  will plant themselves as winter turns into spring. Free and o

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