Grants sought in Seminary Woods preservation efforts

June 19, 2008

Efforts to save Seminary Woods, a 60-acre nature and wildlife preserve at St. Francis Seminary, have intensified.

Friends of St. Francis Green Space, city officials and representatives from several organizations met June 12 to talk about the next steps in the arduous process to preserve the forest owned by the Milwaukee Archdiocese and St. Francis Seminary.

Financial pressures could force the archdiocese to sell the woods, but the local officials and environmental groups are stepping up efforts to ensure that the area continues to be an undisturbed natural wildlife haven.

“It’s moving in a positive direction,” said Ray Klug, co-chairman of the Friends of St. Francis Green Space. “The archdiocese is in no hurry to do anything with the woods.”

Grant requests written

Federal grant applications from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program and the National Coastal Management Program will be submitted within a week, said Peg Kohring, midwest regional director for The Conservation Fund.

An application for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, a state grant, will be submitted by mid-July, she said.

All three grants have been drafted, Kohring said, and are being edited.

“We’re up late at night writing,” she said.

The grants are expected to be awarded by 2009.

Kohring also plans to send an application for a Wisconsin Coastal Management grant in October, and the city of St. Francis will act as a conduit in the fundraising process.

“Right now, it’s just a waiting game,” Mayor Al Richards said.

The state Department of Natural Resources has agreed to match funds to help preserve the land, Klug said.

Also, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District last year approved $400,000 to protect the forest. The money will come from a flood management program that protects key land containing water-absorbing soils.

The program also helps preserve land along stream corridors that connect the region’s supply of public properties, said Steve Jacquart, MMSD coordinator of intergovernmental affairs.

Maintenance important

Klug and Richards speculate that the Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy might eventually take ownership of Seminary Woods.

Klug said MALC would be his first choice to take over the woods because it is a larger organization and has the financial resources to adequately maintain the site.

Cleanup was one concern expressed during the meeting. Whoever becomes responsible for the land would have to be able to prevent the site from becoming “a dumping ground,” Klug said. A management operations manual is being drafted to ensure that the property is maintained.

“We’re also trying to prevent vandalism,” he said.

Seminary Woods includes rare plants and serves as a critical migratory bird refuge, according to a flier by MALC, Friends of St. Francis Green Space, Friends of Seminary Woods and South Shore Park Watch.

While an official value has not been placed on the property, the woods could be worth several million dollars, said Mike Ferenz, a Friends of St. Francis Green Space member.

Once the amount of the grants is known, the land will be appraised.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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