Hidden gems in the county worth a visitWith new snow on the ground and winter doldrums setting in, it might be a good time to expand one’s horizons, get off the couch and get some fresh air.
With new snow on the ground and winter doldrums setting in, it might be a good time to expand one’s horizons, get off the couch and get some fresh air.
St. Croix County is a great place to live and has many interesting places to visit within a few minutes from home. As I sit at my computer writing this article, several unique locations come to mind.
One of my favorites is Saratoga Springs Park located in the Village of Star Prairie on Saratoga Avenue, just to the east of Russell’s Sport’n Bike. It is a 25-acre wildlife area with history going back more than 150 years.
The park was once a health and vacation spa and the waters coming from the small creek flowing through the property were deemed to have had medicinal qualities. The foundations of the old buildings can still be seen today.
In 1989, Margaret Lyngaases donated the park land to the Village of Star Prairie in memory of her husband Matt. Benny and Wes Matthys helped plan and maintain the park while their grandson Ben designed and oversaw the present bridge system as an Eagle Scout Project. The meandering trails and loops can be used for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing while numerous species of animals and a diverse plant community are keynote features.
While in the area, a short drive over to the Stanton County Forest is a worthwhile venture. Located a short distance north of the intersection of County Highways H and T on 185th Street, this 40-acre forest has an ample parking lot to access the well maintained trails that loop around the entire pine forested area. Deer and turkeys are plentiful and hunting is allowed. Hiking or snowshoeing the area can be a welcome break this winter.
WPA of the Week
St. Croix Prairie winter seeding
With snow on the ground and temperatures in the 20s, the conditions are finally right for planting prairie seed. Planting seed in the middle of the winter seems to go against everything we know about growing plants, but in the third week of December the Fish and Wildlife Service staff at the St. Croix Wetland Management District was planting prairie seeds on the St. Croix Prairie Waterfowl Production Area. The St. Croix Prairie WPA is 75 acres in size and located about two miles west of New Richmond on 95th Street.
You may wonder how we can plant seeds at this time of the year, a full five months before most people even try to roto-till their garden.
We use a tractor mounted broadcast spreader that rotates back and forth, spreading seed over the top of the snow. With temperatures in the 20s and some sunlight, the dark seeds will absorb energy from the sun, heat up and slowly melt down into the snow, eventually reaching the ground.
As part of our management of the WPA and knowing that we wanted to create ideal seeding conditions for over-seeding prairie, we burned the WPA in the fall. The black ground creates ideal conditions for the seed to settle and eventually, with spring frost heave, work their way into the ground creating good seed to soil contact, an important part of getting a seed to germinate. As the snow melts in the spring, the black earth absorbs energy and heats up, giving the prairie seeds a head start against the exotic cool season species.
Only certain parts of the WPA were seeded, mainly those areas dominated by brome, an exotic grass that provides some cover but does not provide the diversity found in a planted prairie. A diversity of prairie plants provides benefits to many species, ranging from insects to small mammals to nesting waterfowl to ring-necked pheasant broods.
With time and some patience, this prairie will start to resemble some of the prairies historically found in St. Croix County.
If you would like more information about the St. Croix Wetland Management District, visit our Web site at www.fws.gov/midwest/StCroix/.
With the days getting shorter and colder, many outdoor enthusiasts are preparing their snowmobiles for the first trail ride. Wisconsin residents have two options for registering snowmobiles. They are either public or private registration.
Public registration allows the operation of the snowmobile on any area open to public riding (including the frozen waters of lakes and rivers) and on private property with the appropriate permission. The registration is valid beginning on July 1 and expires on June 30 two years later. The registration decals will be mailed from Madison so the operator must carry proof of registration (a validated receipt from a snowmobile dealer or Department of Natural Resources Service Center) prior to receiving the decals. In addition, registration decals can be purchased for $5 when registering your snowmobile at a DNR Service Center.
Private registration allows only immediate family members to operate on land owned by the immediate family. Private registration does not allow for operation on areas open to the public.
A snowmobile is exempt from registration if the snowmobile is used exclusively for racing on a racing facility or owned by the United States or a political subdivision of the state and used for enforcement or emergency purposes (the name and owner must be displayed in the cowling).
Owners can apply for registration by mailing in their application to Madison, but the owner cannot operate until they receive a validated application back in the mail. Therefore, apply for registration at the DNR Service Center in Baldwin (715-684-2914) where your application will be validated in person.
If buying a snowmobile from a dealer, the dealer can register and validate your application in person.
Renewing your registration can be completed through the DNR Web site, just print out your confirmation page and carry with you until your decals come in the mail.
Age and safety
Before the snowmobile trails open, plan ahead by finding out when a snowmobile safety class is being held before it is too late. Wisconsin has an age and safety requirement for operators.
Anyone who is at least 12 years old and who is born on or after Jan. 1, 1985, must possess a valid Snowmobile Safety Certificate to operate a snowmobile on areas open to the public including frozen waters.
Class information can be obtained at the DNR’s Web site at www.dnr.wi.gov or by calling the DNR Service Center in Baldwin at 715-684-2914 to ask about upcoming classes.
Also, a CD Snowmobile Safety Certification class is available to persons 16 or older. For additional information about the CD, call the DNR Service Center at the number already listed.
Upcoming classes are scheduled at the Hudson Rod and Gun Club starting Jan. 11. Contact James Hallen at 715-386-4181 to sign up.
Also, there is a class at the New Richmond Middle School starting Jan. 5. Contact Jerry Warner at 715-246-6856 to sign up.
For any questions contact Conservation Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.
Have a safe and enjoyable snowmobiling season.