AP NEWS

Baraboo area conservation group hosts Hike the Hills for 25th anniversary

May 3, 2019

A group of Baraboo conservationists will kick off their 25th anniversary celebration Saturday with the first in a series of six hikes along the “Baraboo Range.”

The Baraboo Range Preservation Association started as a land trust in 1994 amid concerns about development in the Baraboo hills and of losing the area’s rural culture, said Executive Director Todd Persche. Now with an aging membership, he said the organization wants to bring in new members, reintroduce people to the organization’s properties and remind them why the land has been protected.

“We’re trying to highlight the traditions that brought our group together in the first place,” Persche said.

Funded in part by a Sauk County Placemaking Grant, the six Saturday hikes each will be followed by a meal, some featuring local people or businesses. The group is one of nine applicants approved for the new grants as of Thursday, said Sauk County Community Liaison Jared Pinkus. He added applications are still being accepted.

The conservation group was awarded $1,500, which members had to match two-for-one, meaning they contributed an additional $3,000. Some will go toward food, some for advertising the events, some for designing a stylized map showing the six hiking spots -- drawn by Persche.

Grants have ranged from $1,500 to $10,000, according to Pinkus.

He said the county approved the grant because, based on discussions with Persche, “we felt that this was an incredibly unique event, especially for, you know, not just Sauk County but the area.” The hikes are a “great opportunity” to draw people from Sauk County and beyond due to the uniqueness of the land, Pinkus said, noting they also tie into economic development.

Hike the Hills starts on the western part of the Baraboo Range at the Honey Creek Preserve from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Participants will see the bird preserve and nature center, while Persche explains the history of the area.

“Our hikes -- they’re about education, but they’re also sort of about learning about the local community,” which he noted is “pretty wild out there to the west.”

After the hike, participants will go to one of the group’s nearby conservation easements for brats or veggie burgers and a bonfire. That provides another opportunity to explore land the public may not otherwise get to see, Persche noted.

Anyone interested in attending the hikes should keep an eye on the group’s website at www.baraboorange.org for updates on details and rain dates.

“We’re looking forward to having a fun time and just reintroducing people to what’s out there or introducing people for the first time to what’s out there,” Persche said. “I think those of us in the conservation community -- I don’t think we’ve done a great job in the last 10-15 years, really, reaching out to the public and talking about why we have so much land protected out here.”