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New Muskego preserve continues to grow into public use

Some have already taken advantage of its many attractions

A peaceful pond is only one natural element of the Badertscher Preserve in Muskego.

A peaceful pond is only one natural element of the Badertscher Preserve in Muskego.

Jan. 6, 2014

Muskego — Muskego's new Badertscher Preserve has already started attracting some nature lovers, but not all of its feature attractions are truly ready for public use.

Eventually, people will be able to ride horses, hike, hunt with bow and arrow and picnic in the 130-acre preserve, named for the man who farmed the land and whose daughter sold it to the city.

It will officially open for horseback riding later this year, possibly by summer, said Tom Zagar, city conservation coordinator.

Some people are already riding the trails through the hilly and scenic acres, but the city won't truly open the bridal trails until it determines how to ensure the safety of horseback riders and hikers, Zagar said.

People are currently welcome to hike its trails, but he advised hikers to pay attention to maps showing where the preserve ends and neighboring private property begins. He said he hopes those boundaries will be marked this year.

Last fall, archers also were welcome to hunt at the preserve, he said.

"It was the first city property to be open for that activity," Zagar said, adding that allowing bow hunting was a factor in the city's successful quest for a state grant to buy the property.

Worth preserving

In 2012, Muskego bought the 103 acres known as the Borst property for $1.2 million. The property lies north of Field Drive and a quarter mile west of Hillendale Drive. The city added it to the 27 acres it already owns and preserves as the Ridges Conservation site in the northwestern part of the city.

Walking the trails, hikers see a hilly glacial topography. It's rocky, too, with fieldstone and gravel.

They are deposits from glaciers some 12 million years ago or so, Zagar said, noting that the landscape is strikingly different from the glacial plain on which the rest of Muskego sits.

The Little Muskego Lake Association is making good on its pledge of $50,000 over 10 years to help develop the preserve. The Lake Association wants to protect Jewel Creek — the most pristine of any tributary to Little Muskego Lake — which meanders through the property.

Since the city bought the Borst property, additional trails have been cut and underbrush cleared from the prairie and oak savannah in the south central part of the preserve.

Seeding the land

Also, sometime this winter, a mix of wildflower and prairie seeds will be spread on land that had been leased to a local farmer who grew soybeans and corn.

The city used the lease proceeds to buy the seed for the former agricultural land on 30 acres close to Field Drive and at the northwest part of the preserve, Zagar said.

Even though nobody is was going to do the seeding in the extreme cold early in the week, winter planting is the preferred method for prairie restoration, he noted. But if the seed had already been spread, the extreme cold would not have bothered the dormant seeds.

It will take at least a couple of years for the wildflowers and grasses to be established and look good, but "it's going to be very colorful during warm summer months," Zagar said.

— Jane Ford-Stewart

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