As the fiftieth reunion of the Class of 1953 neared, the Class Committee invited proposals from various parts of the university for class gift possibilities. One such invitation came to the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve.
The Friends were excited about the possibility that the Class of 1953 might wish to benefit the Preserve. There were so many things that needed doing, and opportunities for gifts that might make a really significant difference were plentiful.
But people associated with the Preserve were in the midst of a Master Plan process in 2003. Questions about the appropriate long term boundaries for various biological communities and questions of how the lands would be used for study and for enjoyment were being actively discussed and debated. Until the Plan was finalized, the future of many areas of the Preserve was uncertain. We needed a proposal that would avoid this uncertainty and still provide a needed and valuable contribution to the Preserve.
Restoring the Lakeshore Path
The Lakeshore Path was not only in need of major restoration and improvement, but the planners could all agree about its long-term future; simply stated, the Path would remain the Path. Further, work undertaken here could be leveraged by piggy-backing on separately funded maintenance to replace piping buried along the route. The challenge was large and beyond what a single class thought it could support. Two closely related proposals were prepared and presented only a few months apart.
To the Class of 1953, the Friends proposed restoration of the Lakeshore Path from Willow Creek and the UW Natatorium to the base of Picnic Point. Here, the path curved gently around University Bay past Triangle Marsh and past the boat ramp. It extended along three-fourths of a mile of Lake Mendota’s shore.
Meeting the challenges
It was a challenging area. In some places, parking lots were very close to the lake. Elsewhere, the shoreline was deeply eroded. After big rains and when the lake was high, floodwater sometimes covered portions of the path. The wonderful willows that had for years lined this portion of the shore were old, and many would need replacing. The plan called for controlling erosion, removing invasives, and establishing native vegetation. It called for the creation of informal overlooks providing views of the lake, an occasional bench, and interpretive signage.
In 2005, restoration work started on the Lakeshore Path, beginning on the eastern end in Muir Woods where the path originates. (Work here was supported by a gift from the Class of 1963 and by further smaller gifts for work in Muir Woods.) In the summer of 2006, the effort was extended west and took important advantage of the management experience developed for the earlier path sections. (See histories of the gifts from the Class of 1963 and Class of 1955).
Because the goal was to obtain both academic and management benefits; the effort achieved strong synergy by combining three related efforts: restoration work in Muir Woods, along the eastern Lakeshore Path, and now continuing all the way to Picnic point.
The gift of the Class of 1953 is generously restoring a part of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve that figures prominently in the fond memories of all who experience the UW campus. Their gift will benefit students and visitors to the Preserve for generations to come.