Ready! Set! Plant!

An image of volunteers getting ready to plant trees. They line up before the area where the trees will be planted, holding red flags that will be used to mark newly planted trees. Pine trees tower above them in the background, before partially cloudy skies.
Volunteers line up, ready to plant trees that will eventually transform the old pine plantation at the Brownrigg-Heier Preserve into a sustainable hardwood forest. Photo by Amy Lord.

2021 is a year of new beginnings, new growth, and reconnecting. Our reforestation effort in Manitowoc County upholds this sense of hope for the year and beyond.

Beginning on Friday, April 30 – National Arbor Day – 60 volunteers came together to plant 5,500 young trees on the Ice Age Trail Alliance-owned Brownrigg-Heier Preserve. Volunteers (some coming from three hours away) donated 730 hours to help improve the earth in an effort extending beyond their lifetimes.

An image of volunteers planting saplings. They work in pairs to trudge a hole then transfer saplings from a bucket into the ground.
The UW Oshkosh volley ball team works to plant and mark the saplings. Photo by Amy Lord.

Over three days, this project helped convert a portion (25%) of a pine plantation, established originally in the 1950s, to a more natural and sustainable forest. The newly planted trees are hardwood species estimated to have increased adaptive capacity to changing climate, including white oak, bur oak, black cherry, and sugar maple.


Currently, (as can be seen in the image below) 75% of the plantation remains in pine, which has reached its peak and will continue to decline in value. With the guidance of a certified forester, the remaining acres will be logged and replanted with the help of future volunteers. The transformation of the Preserve will contribute to the region, an area of more than 1,000 contiguous acres of heavily wooded northern forest. This large-scale habitat is a unique refuge for wildlife, who struggle with ever-increasingly fragmented landscapes. Ultimately, it will also benefit humans looking to reconnect with nature – the Preserve will one day be home to a section of the Ice Age Trail.

An image of a sapling. After being planted in the ground, the sapling was marked with a pink flag and protected with a cage.
The most promising of saplings are caged to protect them from grazers. Photo by Amy Lord.
An image of the Brownrigg-Heier Preserve. Bird's-eye view of the preserve. A large green section is old pine plantation. A smaller brown section is the portion being converted to hardwood forest.
Bird's-eye view of the Brownrigg-Heier Preserve. The brown portion is being converted from pine plantation to hardwood forest. Photo by Fred Stadler.

Note: The volunteers featured in these photos followed COVID-19 safety protocols by being vaccinated and maintaining social distance.

To everyone who helped make this event a success, a special thanks to:

  • Dennis Salzman, who lent us lent a vehicle for shuttling people and supplies to and from the parking lot and worksite each day.
  • Previous landowners, Tom and Deb Heier, for their continued support before and after the project.
  • John Brotz, the neighbor who let us drive through their property
  • The UW Oshkosh volley ball team players and coaches, who showed up with excess energy both days.
  • The Lakeshore Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, who patiently waited, since 2020, for the project to be rescheduled and who whole-heartedly participate in the event.

The success of this project is due to generous funding from the DNR Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program and the West Foundation.

Up Next:

May 18 – 20, Montrose Segment, Dane County (This event is full.)
A new, 330-foot-long boardwalk will keep boots dry and the Trail open and accessible. Additional stewardship opportunities to enhance the Trail corridor will round out the event.

July 7 – 10, Jerry Lake Segment, Taylor County (Registration open.)
It’s time to replace the structures built over Sailor Creek with a heavy-duty Forest Service bridge. This small-scale bridge and boardwalk building event will be composed primarily of local chapter members and additional folks as needed. Register now.

Ice Age Trail, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Reconnect, Trail Improvement Days

See our full schedule upcoming events here: 2021 Reconnect Events.

Generous Sponsors of the 2021 Mobile Skills Crew Trailbuilding Season include:

Duluth Trading Company REI