Just outside of Cross Plains is a newly minted 81 acre preserve with with an iconic shape. The distinct ridge-line on the property is reminiscent of the double-mounded back of a woolly mammoth, which inspired its name: “Mammoth’s Back Preserve.” See Celebrating Mammoth’s Back Preserve!
Mammoth’s Back Preserve was previously unattached to the Cross Plains Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to its west. However, this past May, the Alliance acquired two trail easements that will eventually connect the southern extent of the Cross Plains Segment to the existing Preserve.
At the forefront of the land acquisition efforts for the Ice Age Trail Alliance is Kevin Thusius, Director of Land Conservation. Thusius notes that finding and purchasing parcels of land to lengthen and protect the Trail can take years, so acquiring lands in quick succession in the same area is a rare and exciting occurrence for the Alliance.
“Other land trusts and nonprofits tend to buy land in clumps,” describes Thusius. “The world of trails is different. We’ve got to protect a linear path. We think: how can we get from this road to that road and get all of them lined up at the same time? That’s the ideal situation, but it almost never happens like that.”
As rare as it is to acquire a contiguous road-to-road section at one time, that is exactly what happened with the two trail easements this May. Now, the Alliance looks forward to restoring lands on the Preserve and building trail along the easements to connect to the Preserve. This includes restoring an ecologically significant remnant prairie on hilltop that forms the “Mammoth’s Back” of the Preserve.
“We’ll start restoration in the fall, and as early as next year, we’ll be able to build the Trail,” says Thusius enthusiastically.
Thusius notes that he is not alone in his efforts to protect, create, and support the Ice Age Trail. The Ice Age Trail community of volunteers, donors, landowners, and Trail users all have their own special connection to the lands that the Trail passes through. He trusts that connecting the Trail to the Mammoth’s Back Preserve has the opportunity to foster stewardship of the newly acquired lands.
“People will care for the land because they have access to it: they are going to see it and it’s going to have meaning to them. And I think that is one thing that the Trail really can bring to the landscape.” notes Thusius optimistically.
Along with the efforts of the Alliance, the mission to create, protect, and support the Trail depends on our community of volunteers, donors, and Trail users. The easement purchases were made possible by local fundraising efforts by individuals in Cross Plains area and beyond, and the Alliance is in the process of securing a grant from State’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund to cover a portion of the costs of the trail easement. Thank you for your support!