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April 15: News from around the Driftless Area

‘News from Around the Driftless Area’ is a compilation showcasing the excellent work and interesting tidbits from the community journalists sprinkled throughout our area.

VIROQUA –Friends of Vernon County Parks & Forests will hold the first of their series of ‘Spring Ephemerals Hikes’ at the Duck Egg County Forest, on Saturday, April 17, starting at 4 p.m. Hikers will search for spring ephemerals. Participants should meet at the Upper Duck Egg parking lot, and will go on a guided, gentle one-to-three mile hike around the property. At the end of the hike, there will be a bonfire near the parking area… The Viroqua Library and Valley Stewardship Network are teaming up for a couple Earth Day education events this month! First up is information about a citizen science program for water monitoring. Learn about being a Water Action Volunteer to help monitor local streams and aquatic life, and sign up for an official training later in the month with VSN. This virtual event will take place on Wednesday, April 14, at 4 p.m… Genevieve Haugen was crowned the 2021 Westby Syttende Mai princess during a scaled-back coronation ceremony held at the Westby Community Room last Sunday... The Vernon County Fair Board will again sponsor the Fairest of the Fair contest. The Fairest will serve as the official hostess for the Vernon County Fair, Sept. 15-19… The Cashton FFA Alumni recently made a donation to the Cashton Fire Department for a set of turnout gear… Vernon Electric Co-op held its annual meeting virtually on Saturday, March 27. Members heard updates from President Bernadine Hornby and CEO/General Manager Craig Buros. Buros reported to the board on a variety of topics, including purchases in 2020 of the Community Solar and Westby Solar arrays and the establishment of CHARGE EV, LLC, and electric vehicle charging network. New officers were elected with Hornby remaining president, Orlan Bakkum will serve as vice president, David Dregne remains secretary, Richard Nemec is the new treasurer, and Daniel Korn remains the representative to the Dairlyland Power board.

LA FARGE – Kickapoo Valley Reserve, Wildcat Mountain State Park, and Mississippi Valley Conservancy are excited to announce they are working together to designate the 13,300 acres of KVR, Wildcat, and Tunnelville Cliffs as Wisconsin’s second International Dark Sky Park.  The International Dark-Sky Association awards this distinction to “land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”  The application process requires a sky quality survey, lighting inventory and management plan, community partners, and education and outreach. They are assisted in this initiative by John Heasley, Marla Lind, and Scott Lind who hope to complete the process by 2022.  Benefits of creating the Kickapoo Dark Sky Park include a healthier community and ecosystem, the financial benefits of tourism, the pride of being a world-leading community, and financial savings owing to reduced energy usage.  But most important is preserving our heritage of starry skies for the enjoyment and awe of future generations…Due to popular demand, both Organic Valley retail stores (in LaFarge and Cashton) will be open on Saturdays again starting April 24, from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m…

ONTARIO – Marcy West will end her 24-year stint as the Kickapoo Valley Reserve executive director on April 23. West will take a new position with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s Office of Rural Prosperity, starting on May 10. The KVR will mark its 25th anniversary in December, and West has been the property’s executive director throughout its history… Ontario and Norwalk revived their Easter egg hunts this year, neither of which was offered last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic… The B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, or the UK variant, has been detected in Monroe County, according to the Monroe County Health Department… The combined Wilton Community/Brookwood High School FFA blood drive recently yielded a total of 81 units. Red Cross has announced a scholarship award of $3,000 to a graduating member of the Brookwood FFA… The Village of Ontario has embarked upon the project of creating a Community Cookbook. Community members are asked to e-mail their recipes to the Ontario Library.

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN – The Villa Louis is one of four Southwest Wisconsin historic sites to remain closed for 2021. A letter from Wisconsin Historical Society Director Christian Overland cited budget restraints as the reason for continuing the closure, as well as temporary, pandemic-related staff reassignments… Several donations have come in recent weeks in support of the Prairie du Chien Dog Park, which is expected to open on the southwest end of the city by June. Donors included Tom and Cathie Nelson ($500), the Fradette family ($7,500) – the family will also give matching donations given after the $20,000 mark until the $30,000 goal is reached… Fisheries crews from Wisconsin and Minnesota began a plan on April 5 in Pool 8 of the Mississippi River to get rid of Asian carp. The crews gathered near La Crosse to try a technique new to the Upper Mississippi River. The modified unified method combines herding and netting to drive and concentrate fish from a large area into a small zone for removal… An Easter egg hunt was held at the Driftless Wetland’s Center in Marquette, Iowa, on Saturday, April 3. Families could stop by any time during a two-hour period to enjoy the hunt… In early March, an American Woodcock, sometimes referred to as the ‘timberdoodle,’ was seen at La Riviere Park, a nature park on the southeast side of Prairie du Chien. This sighting of the woodcock means that the annual Timberdoodle Dance, a ‘peent’call by the male woodcock followed by an aerial display, is happening now. Because of these courtship calls and displays, the arrival of the woodcock is considered a harbinger of spring. Persons interested in a guided Timberdoodle Dance hike can contact Dennis Kirschbaum at 608-326-2718 to make a reservation.

RICHLAND CENTER – On Saturday, May 1, Richland County will be hosting its annual spring Tire & Electronic Recycling Event. Items accepted will include appliances, televisions, tires, computers, batteries, light bulbs, and cell phones. A wide variety of household items will also be accepted, ranging from coffee makers and toasters to holiday lights and power tools. The event will take place between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Richland County Highway Shop (120 Bowen Circle, Richland Center)… There  as once a time when many dairy farmers had to haul manure every day, even during the worst part of winter. However, over time, composting innovations have removed that burden as well as reducing environmental impacts. Composting manure is not a new concept, but a Richland County native offers custom manure composting and installs on-farm composting systems for operations of all sizes. Jason Fuller, son of Dennis and Janet Fuller, of the Lloyd area, owns and operated the Middleton-based company called Carbon Cycle Consulting. He states that many dairy farmers have experienced frustration managing manure and no-tilling. Each day, many have had to haul manure even when fields are too wet, which causes compaction and rutting. Fuller realizes that when a farmer no-tills into packed soil, the crop will be uneven and inconsistent. Additionally, freshly applied manure also poses risks for runoff, and can leach nutrients into ground water. Thus, his de-watering technology and composting are being recognized as a viable solution… A recent decision by the Richland County Property Committee was made to retain the veterans' monument stone and flag on the County Courthouse lawn. Members of the Richland Center American Legion Auxiliary took action to remedy the situation by voting to purchase a new flag from the American Legion Flag Park, with proceeds from its purchase going towards upkeep of the Flag Park, located adjacent to the American Legion Hall on US Hwy. 14 West.