Highlights of the history of the Friends of the Madison School Forest
This timeline is composed from two sources – 1) minutes from Friends meetings and 2) notes recorded in the log-in notebook kept at the Friends’ property shed (notes in italics).
The First 5 Years, 1996 – 2000
January 1996 – Founding members: Betty Downs, Dale Grimm, Jobelle Shands, Elnora Wilson
April 16, 1996 – Incorporation papers signed and witnessed by Joseph Bochnen of Smith & Gasteland, CPA firm
April 23, 1996 – Filed papers with the state: Friends of the Madison School Forest, Inc.
March 5, 1997 – Tax exempt status approved as a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization
December 1, 1997 – Dedication of 166 acres of Olson Oak Woods in the School Forest as a State Natural Area. Signed and approved by the Natural Resources Board and signed by the governor in March.
1999 – The Friends raised $40,000 to help the DNR purchase the 20 acre Battker property along Fritz Rd. A plaque honoring the donors placed December 1999. We worked with Peter McKeever of The Nature Conservancy.
March 2000 – The School Forest Management Plan had set the purchase of the neighboring Schaller farm as a priority. After 3 appraisals Ed Schaller said he was not interested in selling. We therefore turned our attention to purchasing another neighboring property: the Andreas farm.
Joe Wipperfurth of Steckel realty contacted us about the 100 acre Frank Andreas property for sale that borders the School Forest. We obtained an appraisal of the property from Julie Hankes for $400,000, or $4,000/acre. One home site is available for the property and 27 acres of the 100 is located across Schaller Rd. Stefanie Brower of the DNR said we could combine state and county stewardship grants when seeking funding.
October 15, 2000 – The Friends signed an option to purchase for $400,000. Attorney Peter McKeever did a title search & a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment was done by a neighbor of Beth Donley. We contacted Jan Zimmerman of Dane County Parks to be asked to be added to the parks Open Space Plan for 2001 so we will qualify to apply for a grant.
A second appraisal was done by Bob Bredemus as required for the Stewardship grant. Stephanie Brower said we qualify to apply. Peter McKeever set up a 1 year option to buy 100 acres for $400,000. We applied for a $200,000 loan from the Minnesota Conservation Fund. The first 3 months of the loan has no interest, than 1% below prime and the loan is for 2 years.
Phil Grimm and Jobelle Shands wrote a letter of credit to back the loan. We would use the money from the Dane County grant to repay part of the loan. Eileen Potts Dawson wrote the Knowles Nelson State Stewardship grant application. Combining $144,000 from the state Stewardship grant, $200,000 from the Conservation Fund loan, and a loan of $56,000 from Jobelle Shands, we meet the $400,000 property cost.
2001 – 2005, The Friends’ Prairie
February 27, 2001 – The Friends purchased the Andreas property. Attorney Peter McKeever represented the Friends and handled the transaction. The loan from Jobelle Shands was repaid with a $56,000 donation from Jerry Frautschi.
March 2001 – The Friends enrolled in the Land Trust Alliance. As a member we could get insurance for the property.
April 13, 2001 – Sorted items behind the shed; swept out the shed
April 21, 2001 – Walked south third of property to pick up garbage. A couple of trailer loads are waiting along the stream bed in the woods. (old dump). Cleaned out pumphouse
May 2001 – The Madison Community Foundation awarded The Friends $50,000 from a grant written by Eileen Potts Dawson. This was applied to the Conservation Fund loan.
May 24, 2001 – The Town of Montrose agreed to change the zoning and move the home site on the property to the 27 acres across Schaller Rd. Terry Riker then purchased the 27 acres for $140,000 which was applied to the Conservation Fund loan.
July 2001 – Began preparing 5 acres on the new property for planting a prairie. Used Round-Up herbicide in the fall, then spring and fall of 2002. Disked the field and mowed a firebreak around it. The duff was then burned off the surface. In return for seed collecting by naturalists, free seed was provided by Wayne Pauly of Dane County Parks.
November 6, 2001 – Walked entire tract– we have 5+/- acres of oak-hickory and black cherry woodland in NW corner of site. Round-Up application showing up well- brown vs. green!
December 1, 2001 – Put in steel sign posts (“Natural Area”) before ground freezes: 7 along Schaller and 3 on Speedway.
April 20, 2002 – Clean-Up Day!! Worker list: Sam Bolton, Rich Bolton, Elnora Wilson, George Wilson, Dale Grimm, Allen Prey, Clare Seguin, Becky Rosenberg, Dave Spitzer, Eileen Dawson
May 14, 2002 – Elnora and George Wilson brought out electric stove
May 17, 2002 – Dave Ropa brought 5 Spring Harbor students for overnight: quadrat vegetation samples
August 6, 2002 – Farm Meeting. Attending: Dave Spitzer, Dave Ropa, Janet & Michael Kane, George & Elnora Wilson, Dorothy Nelson, Don & Kris Woestman, Bob & Laura Faber, Allen & Judie Prey, Betty Downs, Dale Grimm, Rich Bolton, Eileen Dawson.
September 17, 2002 – Dave Ropa & 12 Field Bio Students GPS’d sprayed area – calculated 8.48 acres inside fire break.
September 30, 2002 – Allen Prey and Gary Gaard installed 5 bluebird houses & 3 chickadee houses. Drained water in shed and disconnected hose in pumphouse.
October 11, 2002 – Dave Ropa and students camped overnight: birdbanding
October 13, 2002 – “Natural Area” signs put up on perimeter posts
November 21, 2002 –Wayne Pauly led Spring Harbor students, naturalists and Friends in the 1st prairie seeding on our “Andreas” farm property. The seeds were hand broadcast in a mix with sawdust. Neighbor Ed Schaller mowed the new prairie during the summer of 2003. An adjoining 4.5 acres was herbicided in the spring, then sprayed again in the fall. We decided not to disk the soil as it exposed too many thistle and other weed seeds. Seed collection by our volunteers, again qualified us for free seed from Dane County Parks.
May 3, 2003 – Mowed till mower broke; elms on knoll cut
June 26, 2003 – Water leaked from sink inside shed onto carpet
June 28, 2003 – Afternoon with Andreas Family: Ben & Cora, Tom and wife, Pat and wife, Dale, Allen, Betty & Joe, Elnora & George, Dave S, Eileen, Rich
July 17, 2003 – Seeded graded area by pumphouse & laid straw mulch
August 2003 – Mr. Jaggi’s heirs asked the Friends if they would be interested in purchasing 15 acres next to the north side of the campground. This was listed as a priority on the School Forest management plan, so we began looking into purchasing the property.
August 1, 2003 – Eileen & Dave brought out 3 tables, 1 desk, and 1 blackboard from UW Swapshop
September 20, 2003 – outhouse drywall work
November 20, 2003 – Wayne Pauly led the prairie seeding of the 4.5 acres with students from Spring Harbor School, naturalists and Friends. 71 species of forbs and 5 grass species were planted by hand broadcasting with a mix of sawdust. This was mowed the following summer.
April 18, 2004 – Overhead shop lights installed in shed over work tables
June 5, 2004 – 9 bags of pulled garlic mustard from School Forest sitting in back of shed
July 13, 2004 – Rock fire pit ring cleaned up
July 13, 2004 – Annual FOSF Meeting and Picnic: 29 attended
July 15, 2004 – Replaced PCV piping and added regular faucet to sink in shed. Verona Electric put in outlets over tables for lights, stove outlet, pumphouse electric update
August 28, 2004 – brought out 30 classroom chairs from Lincoln School
October 7, 2004 – Dale met with Joe Conners re: spraying for next year’s planting.
Spring 2005 – 9 acres adjacent to the first prairie plantings were sprayed with Round-Up in the spring and again in the fall. Michler & Brown burned off the duff.
July 8, 2005 – St. Andrews members, led by Dave Ropa, visited and moved some of the cut elm/box elder on hill.
July 19, 2005 – floors of outhouse primed & painted; primed “display wall” in shed classroom
July, 2005 – installed prairie management section boundary posts throughout property and wired each with number tag
November 10, 2005- Wayne Pauly only had seed for half the planting so this was done again with Spring Harbor students. Private Lands gave us needle grass, side oats gamma, and prairie drop seed grass seed for the site.
Wayne Pauly had a crew of Gary Gaard, John Traver, and Allen Prey to cut box elder, red elm, and small cherry trees. The wood was taken to the campground.
The Zweifel property next to the campground came up for sale. This is part of the School Forest Management Plan. An appraisal was done on 23 acres. The Friends made an offer to purchase of $345,000 based on the appraised value. The Zweifels countered with $475,000 which was out of our range.
2006 – 2010, Building partnerships
May 2, 2006 – We finished planting the second half of the 9 acre parcel on our property. Wayne Pauly provided the forbs. Fish and Wildlife gave us little blue stem seeds, and Partners for Wildlife gave us seeds for side oats gamma, needle grass and prairie brome.
October 2006 – Firebreaks were mowed around the first 2 prairie plantings.
November 15, 2007 – The Friends offered 5 grants to teachers for a 2nd trip to the School Forest on a first come, first served basis.
Fall 2007 – A firebreak was mowed around all the prairie parcels.
September 14, 2008 – Paul Olson was one of the founders of the School Forest. In honor of Mr. Olson, the Friends donated and planted a large Bur Oak at the new Paul Olson Elementary School. A red granite rock and plaque accompanied the oak as a dedication to Mr. Olson.
October 5, 2008 – This was the 50th anniversary celebration of the beginning of the School Forest. At the anniversary party, Paul Olson’s sons Jim and Tom talked, as did Don Stewart who sold part of his farm to the school district to form the School Forest.
December 2008 – On Peter McKeever’s recommendation, The Friends began an annual donation to the Town of Montrose called PILOT, which is payment in lieu of taxes.
April 2009 – Willis Brown burned all 18 acres of prairie. Changing winds caused a get-a-way fire. No damage was done.
June 7, 2010 – New iron Friends sign erected at top of driveway
July 27, 2010 – West Side Garden Club (17) toured prairie
2011 – 2015, Burning, Interseeding, and Bees
Fall 2011 – The Friends began preparing 7 acres next to the driveway for prairie planting. Sprayed herbicide in the fall and again next spring.
September 15, 2011 – The Friends renewed the CRP contract at the FSA office for another 10 years. The contract calls for burning in years 1 and 5. Fireman’s Four mowed firebreaks around the property and will do the burns. We are required to interseed after the burn. Patty Haack approved our burn plan.
March 25, 2012 – The south half of the 72 acre CRP land was burned. The interseeding was done on April 18th. The seed was purchased from Madison Audubon. We will get partial reimbursement for the cost of the seed and the cost of the burn.
November 6, 2012 – The 9 acre field was seeded by Wayne Pauly, Spring Harbor school students, naturalists and Friends. Wayne, again, provided the seed for 50 forb species.
April 21, 2013 – The north half of the property was burned by Fireman’s Four. Interseeding was done by Spring Harbor school students.
Summer 2015 – A bee hive was place on the farm and is maintained by Mary Goonan.