Why a Master Plan ?
For the first time in its history, the University of Wisconsin-Madison
has produced a Master Plan for one of the most celebrated and beloved
natural areas in Madison: the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, which includes
Picnic Point and the Lakeshore Path.
Our goal is to manage this precious place to protect its distinctive
natural features and to increase the enjoyment and understanding of visitors,
so that the Lakeshore Nature Preserve can serve as a national model for
how cities and universities can protect and sustain the natural areas
within their boundaries.
The Preserve faces several important threats:
- shoreline erosion;
- runoff from adjacent structures,
- pressure for development;
- invasive exotic species,
- disappearing views;
- decaying infrastructure; and
- poorly managed or inappropriate human use.
The master plan makes important recommendations for addressing these
threats, and also for restoring natural habitats, reintroducing natural
processes like fire, enhancing visitor experience, and making the Preserve
even more beautiful. But we will only be able to implement these recommendations
if we can find the resources-both from the state and from generous private
donors-to do so.
The Preserve came into being over many decades through the accretion
of parcels of undeveloped land--in part by accident, in part through the
efforts of far-sighted people who wanted to protect natural areas on campus.
Now that the campus is reaching the limits of its site, we're finally
able to recognize how extraordinary it is to have 300 acres of undeveloped
land and four miles of shoreline as defining features of the campus.
The Preserve symbolizes not just the beauty of UW-Madison, but its core
values as one of the preeminent environmental research universities in
the world. The new master plan lays out an exciting agenda--a greenprint,
as it were--for putting the university's environmental knowledge and values
to work right in our own back yard.
Where can I get a copy of the master plan?
Summary of Master
This 10-page document provides a concise overview of the entire
master plan, with guiding principles and key maps.
The master plan is a content-rich document with
many maps, historic images and descriptive text.
Sections of Master Plan
If downloading the full document is difficult on slower Internet
connections, you may wish to download the Master Plan in sections.
Introduction and Guiding Principles, p. 1-4
Site Analysis, p. 5-23
Master Plan, p. 24-64
How long had the master plan been in the works, and how was it produced?
Formal work on the master began in the middle of 2004, when Ken Saiki
Design was hired to serve as consultants for the process, with Ken Keeley
and Rebecca Flood serving as lead members of the planning team. (Prior
to 2004, the predecessor of the Preserve Committee spent two years under
the leadership of then Chair John Harrington defining the core management
and stewardship principles that inform the master plan.) The consultants
have worked closely with the Preserve Committee, with Preserve managers,
with Gary Brown (UW-Madison's Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture),
and with Alan Fish (Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning
and Management) to make sure that the plan addresses all key challenges
facing the Preserve. Another key goal has been to integrate the
Preserve master plan with the campus-wide master plan update being done
at the same time. (One exciting aspect of the new campus master
plan is its emphasis on the open space of the campus as a defining feature
of UW-Madison...an emphasis that finally recognizes how important the
Lakeshore Nature Preserve is to the university as a whole.) Extensive
input and commentary were sought throughout the planning process from
interested stakeholders and from the public at large. Members of
the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve were heavily involved throughout
What are the most important recommendations of the master plan?
Because this is a comprehensive plan, it is full of suggestions for how
the Preserve can be managed more effectively and enhanced in many wonderful
ways. Different people will no doubt focus on different aspects
of the plan depending on their concerns and interests. But the following
seem like some of the most exciting changes we foresee for the Preserve
as we work to make this plan a reality:
We're committed to managing the Preserve as a single integrated unit,
with a unified trail system that runs from the Union Terrace all the
way to Shorewood via the Lakeshore Path and Picnic Point. We
want to make the Preserve much more prominent in people's minds as
a defining feature of the campus and the city. New maps, new
signs, new interpretive literature, a new website: all of these will
help increase the visibility of this special place and help people
appreciate how precious it is.
We're defining key locations as "gateways" to the Preserve, at the
eastern end of the Lakeshore Path, at the Frautschi Point parking
lot, and especially at the base of Picnic Point. In particular,
we plan to construct the main gateway for the Preserve at the entrance
to Picnic Point to help welcome and orient visitors. This "Preserve
Station," as the plan now calls it, will be an open-sided structure
with restrooms, maps, interpretive panels, and a viewing platform
on top to make it easier for visitors to look out across University
Bay and the Class of 1918 Marsh to view wildlife without becoming
a disruptive presence. The "Preserve Station" will NOT be
a large heated structure, since we intend to keep visitor facilities
in the Preserve very basic and rustic, in keeping with the naturalness
of the Preserve itself. We simply want to orient visitors to
the Preserve so they'll better understand what's special about it.
Perhaps the most exciting and transformative new design proposed
by the master plan is located at the tip of Picnic Point, an area
that has become so overgrown with buckthorn, honeysuckle, and other
exotic shrubs that it is literally impossible to see the spectacular
view of the Madison skyline that is the main reason visitors make
the mile-long trek to the end of the peninsula. To see that
view, visitors are now forced to scramble down steep slopes with exposed
tree roots, mutilated vegetation, and heavily eroded soils because
the view everywhere else is blocked--and because no well-designed
route has been provided for reaching the water's edge, as virtually
every visitor to Picnic Point eventually wishes to do. The master
plan therefore proposes to redesign this heavily eroded and damaged
area by providing a stone storytelling circle where large groups can
gather (as many UW students do every semester). In addition,
rustic stone steps will be constructed to guide visitors down the
slopes to the edge of the lake in such a way that eroded slopes will
be stabilized and damaged vegetation can regrow. Finally, invasive
shrubs will be cleared and views will be reopened so that the full
beauty of the Madison skyline will once again be visible from this
famed vantage point--a place that city residents have been celebrating
for its views since the middle of the nineteenth century.
A much smaller gathering place is proposed in the plan for Frautschi
Point, an area that will become much better integrated with the rest
of the Preserve as a result of master plan recommendations. In
addition, general locations have been designated for occasional benches
where walkers can rest and enjoy the view as they explore the Preserve.
The plan offers complex recommendations for managing the vegetation
of the Preserve with an eye to restoring a variety of native habitats
in appropriate locations. Among the most exciting of the proposed
changes is a zone where existing open-grown bur oaks will be used
to form the core of a restored oak savannah, a vegetation type that
was once among the most common in southern Wisconsin, but that has
almost disappeared since the nineteenth century.
To promote restoration of prairie, savannah, and oak forest, the
plan proposes to reintroduce controlled burning to the Preserve. Although
regular fires were part of the ecosystems of this area for thousands
of years prior to Euroamerican settlement, they have been absent from
the Preserve (except for the Biocore Prairie and the Class of 1918
Marsh) for a century and a half. Reintroducing fire will be
a key management tool that can serve multiple goals: removing invasive
species; restoring savannah and other fire-dependent vegetation types;
experimenting with restoration techniques; and serving the research
and teaching missions of the university by giving students direct
experience with fire management.
A separate set of recommendations are offered for enhancing the Class
of 1918 Marsh, a pioneering example of a restored wetland that was
created with generous support from the Class of 1918 back in 1972. By
doing a better job of managing run-off from the UW Hospital complex
and other buildings of the west campus, and by working to promote
a diversity of community and habitat types, the marsh can provide
better wildlife habitat, healthier plant communities, and better learning
opportunities for students and visitors.
The plan identifies key views to and from the Preserve as defining
features of the visitor experience, and offers recommendation for
restoring views that were far more common in the past before the Preserve
became choked with invasive shrubs.
Although most visitors never see it, an area of the Preserve near
the base of Picnic Point provides a crucial staging area for the University's
Physical Plant. The environmental impacts of this staging area
are greater than they need to be, as is its visual presence in the
landscape. The plan makes recommendations for redesigning the
staging area to diminish its impact on surrounding vegetation and
watersheds while also providing storage facilities for the adjacent
The plan for the first time analyzes the many trails and roadways
that connect different parts of the Preserve, and offers systematic
recommendations for diminishing the impact of problematic routes while
enhancing the visitor experience and managing routes in a much more
integrated fashion. We hope it will become more common in the
future for walkers to trek all the way from the Union Terrace to Shorewood
along the trails of the Preserve.
As part of the research that went into producing the master plan,
archaeologists confirmed what we already knew, that UW-Madison probably
has a greater abundance and variety of archaeological features--effigy
mounds, village sites, old shoreline camps, and so on--than any other
university in the country. Many of these archaeological features
are located within the Preserve. Some are Native American sites
dating to pre-Euroamerican times, while others are the remains of
nineteenth-century farmsteads and past university activities on these
lands. Very few of these intriguing features are adequately
interpreted for visitors, so most people probably never even see them. A
key goal of the master plan recommendations is to improve our management
and interpretation not just of natural landscapes in the Preserve,
but cultural ones as well.
The master plan warns of the very serious sedimentation problems
posed for University Bay by Willow Creek, which drains a watershed
on the west side of Madison reaching all the way to Hilldale Shopping
Center and beyond. Although we were unable to recommend solutions
in the plan itself, we warn that the University needs to work together
with the City of Madison and the State Department of Natural Resources
to address this problem in the future.
The plan makes many other recommendations for improving the Preserve. Anyone
wanting to learn more should read the report.
Will every detail of this master plan become a reality?
Almost certainly not. Remember, the goal of a master plan isn't
to provide detailed blue prints for all of its recommendations. Its
purpose is more conceptual: it provides an analysis of the present and
offers a visionary sketch for a better future. Our job is now to
identify the most important and urgent recommendations, the ones we're
most eager to act on immediately, and to seek the funds that will enable
us to move those recommendations forward. Before we act on major
recommendations, there will in many cases need to be additional plans
and blueprints and detailed decisions. No doubt recommendations
will change and evolve as we learn more about how to do a better job of
caring for the Preserve. But the master plan is a HUGE step forward,
and we can't wait to get down to moving forward from this point.