A gift of the Class of 1963: the Lakeshore Path to Willow Creek

Pedestrians make their way along the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during spring on May 10, 2011.
Photo by Bryce Richter/UW-Madison.

When the Class of 1963 decided to hold a forty-year reunion, its Class Committee began consideration of a gift to the university, and invited the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve to make one of several UW-Madison proposals for the class to consider.

The Friends were excited about the prospects. There were so many things that needed doing in the Preserve, and wonderful opportunities were plentiful. But the Preserve was in the midst of drawing up its first master plan. Questions about the appropriate boundaries for various biological communities and about how the lands should best be used for study and enjoyment had not yet been answered. Until the Plan was finalized, the future of many areas of the Preserve remained uncertain.

What was needed for the Class of 1963 was a proposal that did not require the completion of the master plan to make an invaluable contribution to the Preserve.

Two classes join forces to help 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 beneath the path. The challenge was large and beyond what a single class thought it could support. Two closely related proposals were therefore prepared and presented only a few months apart.

To the Class of 1963, the Friends proposed restoration of nearly a mile of the Lakeshore Path, from the Limnology Building (just west of the Memorial Union) to Willow Creek. The Class agreed with the need for and the attractiveness of the project and set out to fund it as a class gift to the University. Their generous gift allowed work to begin in late 2005. Erosion is being controlled, native plantings are being re-established, viewing points and benches are planned. Interpretive signage will be provided at key points along the Lakeshore Path, and also where the Path begins at the Preserve’s eastern gateway.

A new model for stewardship

It had been thirty years since a major class-gift project had been undertaken in the Preserve. The first challenge that followed the receipt of this gift was how to manage and guide a fairly large project in a way that would meet both academic and practical “work-on-the-ground” objectives. The former required rigorous documentation to enhance learning about restoration ecology. The latter depended on effective work and good use of resources.

In the background, additional gift funding had been provided for restoration work in Muir Woods. This work had been planned independently, but it created a fortuitous opportunity. Muir Woods included the easternmost part of the Lakeshore Path, so combining the two projects would offer synergistic advantages to both.

A graduate student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Rebecca Kagle, had come to the University following extensive management experience in major East Coast parks. She offered great project management skills and could simultaneously assure the academic excellence we sought. In fact, she would focus her graduate studies here. Under her direction, the project was planned, workers were retained, materials were ordered, and a group of volunteers was recruited to speed the work and stretch funds even farther. After more than a year in place, this combined academic management model for restoration work has been judged a clear success and is likely to be implemented in other parts of the Preserve as well.

The generous gift of the Class of 1963 has provided for restoration of one of the best known, most used and most loved parts of the Preserve. It has also provided an unexpected benefit by establishing a very effective management model we are now extending to additional Preserve projects. (See also the histories of the Class of 1953 and Class of 1955 gifts.)

Learn how you can contribute to the Preserve here.