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Reaping what Mother Nature sows

MAIDEN ROCK - No matter that the weather was cold and blustery and snow was in the air and on the ground, about 100 volunteers walked through tall prairie grasses with a purpose Nov. 15.

They were harvesting grass from Maiden Rock Bluff to mix and plant the seed along Pine Creek in a preserve area managed by the Western Wisconsin Land Trust.

"It's a good deed to help nature and enjoy the outdoors while we still have the opportunity before winter," said Ryan Hitzman of Woodville, Wis.

He, his wife, Sarah, and their daughter helped harvest the prairie grass.

Some of the volunteers came by mini bus. Hitzman belongs to Trout Unlimited, whose members were helping out as part of the project to restore the trout stream that is Pine Creek.

Other volunteers were with the WWLT or Fairmount Minerals, whose Wisconsin Industrial Sand Mine is close by.

"Our company has a love of nature, and we see the purpose of a long-tem project like this right in our back yard," said Tim Stauffer, manager of Wisconsin Industrial Sand. "Our employees are happy to come out and help because they're hunters and fishers, and they want to give back to nature to make sure they continue to have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors."

Dave Carlson of Eau Claire's "Northland Adventures" TV show was on hand with his cameraman to film the volunteers as they worked with a view of Lake Pepin and the Minnesota countryside in the background.

Volunteers made sure to stop at points on the trails to enjoy the view.

Rick Remington of WWLT said the prairie grass will not only help restore Pine Creek as a trout stream, but also make it a diverse ecosystem that will attract outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.

"The grass helps to keep out sediment from the river and now's the time of the year to plant it," Remington said. "These grasses will attract a variety of birds and butterflies and animals that people will want to come out and see and take in if they're photographers, hikers, anglers, bird watchers or bikers."

The WWLT also manages the public lands along the bluffs south to Stockholm. The Maiden Rock Bluff State Natural Area, which is off Long Lane in Pepin County, is open all year with scenic hiking trails.

After spending the morning harvesting prairie grass seed, volunteers ate lunch at the Maiden Rock American Legion Camp along Pine Creek. That afternoon they planted the seed alongside the creek bed.