The Village Board authorized the non-profit organization, Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), to serve as agent to find grant funds for the Somers Neumiller and Gitzlaff Parks because local funding is not readily available for projects. Below, Dave Giordano, Executive Director of Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network shares information about the WIN organization and efforts being directed toward our Somers parks.
1. What is the Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network?
Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization solely focused on the watersheds and Lake Michigan coastline of Southeastern Wisconsin. We are the only non-profit organization in the Root-Pike basin working as a catalyst to bring awareness and actionable projects in order to improve Lake Michigan and its tributaries. We championed the creation of the Pike River plan and we’re the first organization in Wisconsin to get this Nine Element Plan approved by the DNR and EPA.
2. Why is Root-Pike WIN searching for a grant for the Neumiller Woods and Gitzlaff parks?
Root-Pike WIN is searching for these grants as local funding is not readily available. For Neumiller Woods, the trail creation and restoration project will provide better, long-term access to an area of Somers that has some rare, pre-settlement conditions to experience. Currently, many of the park’s natural features are difficult to access as these wetlands are just that – very wet. For Gitzlaff Park, there is a unique opportunity to bring back some of the pre-settlement wetlands, which help minimize the effects of fast-moving, erosive, and polluted storm water. The Somers Branch, which flows through Neumiller Woods and Gitzlaff Park, is impaired for streambank erosion and water quality due to this upstream runoff. Runoff from agricultural fields and residential neighborhoods are the likely sources. Wetlands dominated the Somers area before settlement occurred and served valuable water quality and flood reduction functions. They reduced the volume and velocity of storm runoff that erodes our streambanks – a problem that has plagued Somers’ tributaries for decades. In addition, wetlands created habitat for a vast array of plants, insects, fish and animals, which are now far less common. Wetlands are nature’s pool filter and the Gitzlaff Park would be the first Somers’ wetland restoration project identified in the Pike River Watershed Restoration Plan.
3. If the grant request is successful, what type of work will be done on the Neumiller and Gitzlaff Parks?
For Neumiller Woods, the work would include permanent trails that would allow for easier access to the park’s unique natural features. For Gitzlaff Park, the work would include four wetland “scrapes” or ponds to hold and store more storm water from adjacent areas. When the storm water flows through the Somers Branch, and other area tributaries, to the Pike River too quickly, the energy from that flowing water erodes the banks and causes more trees to fall into the stream. Excessive tree fall debris creates more problems for landowners and citizens downstream. These wetlands will allow for the gradual release of that water, which also creates a more stable habitat for a variety of species to thrive. The Gitzlaff Park wetland project is one of a number of proposed green infrastructure projects recommended in the Pike River Plan.
4. How will this work benefit the parks long term?
Having permanent, stable trails to use will allow for educational and recreational opportunities that weren’t’t readily available before to Somers citizens. By creating links between the parks, the Somers branch could become an environmental corridor that attracts adjacent homes, businesses and recreational opportunities that add to the character and value of the Village. If the area remains agricultural, the ponds are also buffers to farmland runoff. The restoration of the North Branch of the Pike River in Mount Pleasant is a nearby example of this kind of success. Flooding has been reduced, property values have gone up, industries use it as a recruiting tool, and residents use the trails for a variety wellness activities.
5. Has Root-Pike WIN applied for a grant yet?
Root-Pike WIN has begun researching the appropriate grants to apply for and the application process to some of those grants will begin in June of 2017.
6. Additional Information Available
Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network
800 Center Street, Room 118, Racine, WI
P.O. Box 044164, Racine, WI 53404