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Riverway Board learns of innovative new mapping project
For the Lower Wisconsin River
John Lyons paddles the Wisconsin
FLOW SCIENCE TEAM member John Lyons is seen on a float down the Lower Wisconsin River in July of 2021. The float was organized by the Savanna Institute and River Alliance of Wisconsin.

MUSCODA - At their January 13 meeting, members of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board (LWSRB) learned about an innovative cultural and heritage map of the Riverway being developed by a UW-Madison student. Christina Dennis, a senior in the Department of Geography, is developing the map as her senior project.

According to Dennis’ advisor for the project, Dr. William Gartner, UW-Madison professor in the Geography Department, the project has been a long-held dream of his. Gartner was reached after the meeting, and was excited to share news of the project.

“It’s something that I always wanted to do, but never quite seemed to have the time for,” Gartner explained. “It all got started when Christina joined a group of us to canoe on the Lower Wisconsin River – once she experienced it, she was hooked.”

Gartner said that the project will be based in a ‘global information system mapping’ (GIS) format, and converted into a three-dimensional (3D) format using the ‘hillshade’ function. The hillshade function produces a grayscale, 3D representation of a terrain surface, with the sun's relative position taken into account for shading the image. ‘Hillshading’ is a technique for visualizing terrain determined by a light source and the slope and aspect of the elevation surface.

“After she develops the basic layer with GIS and the hillshade function, then she will add in various layers to show different features in the Riverway,” Gartner explained. “So for instance, there will be a river layer, a roads and major towns layer, a public lands layer, and so forth.”

 Gartner said that the final part of the map development project will employ and innovative technique called ‘participatory mapping.’ He said that the plan is to hold meetings in communities up and down the Riverway to present the map and invite community discussion and feedback about the features represented on the map, features that could be added to the map, and the social and cultural history associated with those features.

Participatory mapping, according to the ‘Mapping for Rights’ website, is also referred to as ‘community mapping.’ 

“The technique is based on the premise that local inhabitants hold accurate knowledge of their customary (and otherwise usually unrecorded) tenure of forests, as well as expert knowledge of their local environments, which can be expressed in maps that are easily understandable. 

“Maps created by local communities represent the place in which they live, showing features communities themselves perceive as important such as customary land boundaries, how they use the forest, sacred areas, and so on.

“The process used to create participatory maps can be very valuable in itself. They are planned around a common community goal and should be made with input from an entire community. The result is a product that represents the knowledge of the entire community.”

Ultimately, once community input is gathered and incorporated into the map, the map will be available to users of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway to download. 

“Users of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway will be able to reap several important things by downloading the map,” Gartner explained. “First, the map will enrich their experience in the Riverway by giving them a cultural understanding of the landscape they are in. Second, because the map is GIS-based, it will be an important safety tool, allowing Riverway users to better identify their exact location on the river in case of an emergency.”

The map according to Gartner will be available to the public free of charge, as a downloadable map and also as a limited run paper map. Lower Wisconsin Riverway Executive Director, Mark Cupp, says the map will be available for download from the LWSRB website.

Dr. Gartner sits on the board of a 501C3 non-profit, based in Muscoda, called ‘Cultural Landscape Legacies,’ along with Cupp. The organization was formed in the early 2000s with the intent of protecting mounds and rock art located in the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. 

According to Gartner, the organization participated in the process of working with landowner Frank Shadewald, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway to form the Three Eagles Foundation, and purchase  the property containing the effigy mounds at Frank’s Hill. The organization has also helped with various Riverway maintenance projects over the years.

In other business

In other business, the board:

• heard a presentation from Francis Schelfhout, Department of Transportation (DOT) planner, regarding the proposed lighting of the intersection of Highways 130 and 133, at the Iowa County end of the new Lone Rock bridge, expected to be completed in 2024. Schelfhout said local officials and area residents had encouraged placement of a flashing beacon at the end of the bridge similar to the red flashing light at the end of the existing bridge. In addition, a streetlight will be placed at the intersection. Both the beacon and the streetlight will require individual solar panels to avoid the necessity of running power across the bridge. Schelfhout said DOT is proposing use of colors for the exterior of the beacon shroud and light pole in the same hue as are proposed for the bridge but approval from the federal government is pending

• adopted a motion to require the lighting to be Dark Sky compliant, meaning there will be shrouds on the lights to reduce light pollution while still maintaining the safety benefits of the lighting mechanisms. Schelfhout said DOT uses the Dark Sky compliant directive on most projects.

• adopted a motion to accept the design for the beacon and streetlight with the note that solar panels will be placed on each light to provide power

• approved issuance of a timber harvest permit to Terry and Suzanne Shifflet for the Wintergreen Conference Center property in the Town of Wyoming, Iowa County. An 81-acre portion of the 250-acre property will be logged to remove walnut and oak. Some of the harvest area will be visible from the Wisconsin River. The harvest will occur during the winter months when the ground is frozen or dry. No new roads will be required. The proposed harvest will comply with the applicable Riverway regulations to protect scenic beauty. The consultant is Rick Livingston of Driftless Area Forestry, LLC.