Situated on the St. Croix River bluffs south of Hudson, Wisconsin is the 300-acre preserve owned by Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center — a broad prairie and a wooded hillside, an old farmstead and an oak savanna, linked together by winding trails, which are loved by all who walk them. It is protected and managed for native species, and is the future home of an Interpretive Center developed by and for our community.
For more than 35 years, Carpenter has operated a successful location near Hastings, Minnesota, with consistent community support and thousands of visitors each year. At the same time, we have worked to acquire land in Wisconsin in partnership with area residents, expanding on an initial 98-acre donation by Laurie Hein in the 1980s. Carpenter has carefully stewarded this preserve into existence, using unique funding strategies and community partners.
On our Wisconsin property, many threatened animals, insects, and plants rely on the protected land for survival: the Henslow’s sparrow, a bird species that has drastically declined, still nests among the grass; Kittentails flowers, designated rare or threatened in each of the few states where it grows, blooms each June; Big bluestem grass waves above your head as you walk the trails in late summer.
The Time is Now
Since the initial gift of land by the Heins in 1989, Carpenter has envisioned, and worked toward, a permanent facility on the Wisconsin Campus, which would help to further our mission of land stewardship and environmental education.
In 2008, we acquired the final parcel for the Wisconsin Campus and have worked to develop a natural resource management plan approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and a site master plan approved by our many partners and Cove neighbors. The Wisconsin Campus Expansion Project has the full support of our board of directors and staff.
While we will continue to manage the land to promote natural habitat, Carpenter will soon build an Interpretive Center tucked in the woods. It will offer an opportunity to connect with nature and learn from experienced Carpenter naturalists. Here, people young and old will witness wild wonders, learn about the land’s rich diversity of life, and deepen their connection to our natural world.
Completing development of the Wisconsin Campus will allow Carpenter to bring its experience and expertise to both sides of the St. Croix River, offering the community more access to their native landscape. In a sense, our organization will anchor the lower river with land stewardship and education.
A Need and an Opportunity
Citizens of Hudson and surrounding communities have expressed a need for affordable, quality environmental education as well as accessible facilities for individuals and families to spend time in nature. Carpenter has identified and researched this need over the past decade by surveying and studying Wisconsin communities.
Feasibility studies have demonstrated that the Wisconsin Campus will be able to accommodate walk-in visitors and multiple school groups each year while positively interacting with the environment, our neighbors, nearby communities, and other environmental groups in the St. Croix Valley.
An important facet of this project is continuing to protect and preserve the land, ensure its long-term accessibility, and promote healthy habitat and the unique landscape of prairie and forest, which made up a mosaic in this part of Wisconsin before European settlement.
The Wisconsin Campus is located convenient to Hudson, River Falls, and the surrounding area, and it’s a short distance from I-94, making for easy access coming from the Twin Cities and areas east of Hudson. It will increase in value and necessity during the decades ahead and serve many generations.