CRAWFORD COUNTY - Crawford County Conservationist David Troester, and the members of the Land Conservation Committee, chair Henry ‘Buzz’ Esser, Kim Moret, Wade Dull, David Olson and Don Dudenbostel, were on hand on Thursday, August 22, to hand out some well-deserved Conservation Awards.
One award that was handed out at the ‘Land Conservation Awards’ ceremony at the Crawford County Fair, was given to the Sleepy Hollow Owners Association in the category of ‘Wildlife Conservation.’
“Our group of 12 landowners spent many years bringing this project to fruition with all the extra complication of working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a group versus as individual landowners,” Association member Chuck Gartland said. “Receiving this award signifies to us that all the effort was worth it.”
Most years, the Crawford County LCC presents the Wildlife Conservation award to a property owner that has made significant wildlife habitat improvements to their wooded hills, native prairies, or oak savannas. This year, however, the LCC wanted to recognize a group who worked to stabilize 2,100 feet of stream bank and create ma-jor improvements to the fish habitat in the stream. That group is the Sleepy Hollow Owners Association.
The association was formed in 2006 by a group of property owners who loved the outdoors and trout fishing, and wanted to live and/ or vacation along this beautiful trout stream in northeast Crawford County. The properties flank a 1.3-mile stretch of the West Fork of Knapp Creek, a stream with native brook trout. The stream is faced with bank erosion that can impact water quality.
The association became aware of initiatives to re-store streams in the Drift-less Area, and began work-ing with Trout Unlimited. A project kickoff meeting in September of 2014 included Dave Vetrano, former DNR stream biologist, and Travis Bunting, Conservation Spe-cialist for Crawford County. A neighbor, Harriet Behar, had recently completed a project on her property along the stream west of Sleepy Hollow, and she provided valuable insight into the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s pro-grams.
“Sleepy Hollow Owners Association met with Karyl Fritsche, NRCS District Conservationist in early 2015 to discuss the project. Karyl agreed to work with the association bundled as one group even though they normally only work with single landowners,” Troester said. “This placed additional administrative burden on the NRCS to get them enrolled in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), for which Sleepy Hollow is very thankful. Karyl worked with them to increase their ranking making them more likely to receive funding.”
Also in 2015, Travis Bunting, and Adam Achenbach and Mike Dreischmeier of the NRCS, conducted more thorough stream survey work. Achenbach then designed the stream restoration plan. This plan was submitted in 2016 to the DNR to obtain the stream work permit. The association also ob-tained permission from some neighbors’ properties to get better access to the restoration sites.
In 2017, the project was approved and funded by the NRCS. The Showen Com-pany was selected as the contractor and work began in June of 2018. Almost 2,100 feet of riprap rock was placed along 29 vulner-able locations, and another 3,700 feet of eroded banks were sloped back, shaped, and re-vegetated.
“What really separates this project from others was the amount of fish habitat that was added to the stream. Rock weirs, deflectors, j-hooks, and large boulders were placed at specific locations along the stream,” Troester said. “Though this added a significant cost to the project, Sleepy Hollow wanted to ensure that the stream habitat was greatly improved. This work will not only benefit the trout, but will also improve habitat for numerous species of reptiles and amphibians that make their home in and along the stream.”
Some areas of the project suffered some flood damage from a severe storm shortly after the work was complet-ed, but a repair plan has already been developed to correct the damage. Had the work not been done on the stream, the damage would have been much worse.
“Sleepy Hollow Owners Association told me they are committed to making their properties a sanctuary for nature. This stream project has laid the foundation for this goal,” Troester said. “They tell me their efforts to improve the riparian area will continue. They plan to work with Valley Steward-ship Network to develop strategies to improve native vegetation through mowing and prescribed burning. Pheasants Forever is work-ing with them to improve both bird and pollinator habitat. Some property owners are even managing bees and building waterfowl nest boxes.”
Gartland said that the project was damaged in the Labor Day 2018 flooding, and that the new vegetation that had been planted had not yet had time to take hold and root. In addition, a massive and destructive amount of debris passed through the restored area, and ripped out rock and structures.
In the Spring of 2019, the group got out and removed debris from the creek and placed it in burn piles. They had also appealed to NRCS for some remediation funding, and that work of replanting seeds and replacing rock is expected to start shortly. In addition, the group has been consulting with Valley Stewardship Network about fighting invasive species and restoring native vegetation.“As you can see, Sleepy Hollow Owners Association is very committed to pro-tecting the scenic beauty and overall health of the stream and surrounding landscape,” Troester said. “For that reason, the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee is proud to pre-sent them with the 2019 Wildlife Conservation Award.”