Few people know about a large recreational area with miles of biking and hiking trails right next to Devil’s Lake State Park.
At the Feb. 7 Waunakee Rotary meeting, Charlie Luthin, director of the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance, described the history of Badger Lands Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area and the site’s reclamation after the Badger Ammunition Plant was closed.
About 12,000 years ago, glaciers moved onto the site and left behind rich soil where a prairie flourished. Native Americans then inhabited the area but were ousted when settlers arrived, cleared it and converted it to productive farmland.
After Pearl Harbor, when the United States was entering World War II, the Army took it over for a munitions plant where propellants were produced and shipped elsewhere for ammunition. This continued until after the Vietnam War in 1975.
The Army decided to keep the plant on standby status and maintained to go back to production within 30 days.
After the plant became outdated, the Army decided it was no longer needed, and in 1997, it would be decommissioned.
A group of conservationists, including Charlie, who then was director of the Aldo Leopold Center in Baraboo, saw an opportunity and formed the Sauk Prairie conservation Alliance.  They created a vision for the property.
“We said this landscape has had many impacts,” Charlie said. “The Indians lost their homes. The farmers who had settled there lost their homes, and when the Badger Ammunition Plant closed, those people lost their jobs.”
The  hope was to reclaim the land for all of those past losses.
The vision was to restore the site to its original condition, with the wildlife and plants.
A number of stakeholders, farmers and governmental units met for more than a year and heard proposals for industrial use and a race track, but the Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance’s vision won their hearts and minds.
Some 1,558 acres were given back to the Ho Chunk, who are now restoring the land to prairie with bison.
Another area is now owned by the USDA Dairy Forage Research, which studies the diet of dairy cows.
The remaining piece is managed by the Department of Natural Resources with a swath fronting the Wisconsin River and the north side next to Devil’s Lake State Park.
“Almost nobody knows you can drive through the gate at Hwy. 12 and enjoy this state property,” Charlie said.
Today, Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance’s aims to promote the Badger Lands Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area, with its miles of biking trails and restored prairie.
Other News:
-Greeters were Bob Klostermann, filling in for Rich Harris, and Travis Heiser. In his 90 seconds of fame, Travis said he’s been a Rotarian for 10 years, and was born and raised in Waunakee. He and wife have two children. Travis works at Sky’s Edge Wealth, which is affiliated with Ameriprise.
-Elections for the board of directors will be next week. If you’d like to put your name on the ballot, let Taylor Endres know.
The board of directors met and made contributions to Brat Fest, Vogel Corporation for school supplies, A Rotaract Club, WaunaBOOM, Project Graduation, Tri 4 Schools and the EMS monument.
Guests: Speaker Charlie Luthin, guest of the club; Ann Becker, Waunakee Community Bank.
Visiting Rotarians: None.
Birthdays: None.
Anniversaries: None.
Programs: Feb. 14, Club Assembly and classification talk by Lisa Humenik; Feb. 21, Tom Still, Wisconsin Technology Council on Angel and Venture Capital; Feb. 28, JD Engelhardt, Big Brothers Big Sisters
Dane County; March 7, Samantha Beaver, CEO and Founder of Memra Language Services on linguistic research.
Greeters: Feb. 14, Don Hoffman and Mick Holm; Feb. 21, Lisa Humenik and Roxanne Johnson; Feb. 28, Jim Kattner and Kevin Kearney; March 7, Tom Kennedy and Chris Kenney.