For Hub City Times
ARPIN — “If you haven’t walked in the woods to see the spring ephemerals, you haven’t seen spring,” so stated Dr. Robert Freckmann, professor emeritus of botany at UW-Stevens Point. On May 6 Freckmann led a group to view the spring wildflowers on Powers Bluff. The event, co-hosted by Friends of Powers Bluff and the Portage County Audubon Society, showcased what the county park had to offer.
“This isn’t just a treasure for Wood County. This is a significant site for the entire state,” explained Freckmann. The dense canopy of the mature hardwood forest allows spring flowers to bloom each year without competition from other late-season plants that would crowd them out.
With a garden trowel tucked in the back pocket of his jeans and a magnifying lens on a chain around his neck, Freckmann combined the enthusiasm of a child digging in the dirt with the delivery of an experienced lecturer who knows how to engage and inform his listeners. He described common names, traditional medicinal uses, and methods of growth and dispersal for the plants he pointed out to the 20 people who joined him on the wildflower walk. Noting the difficulty of scheduling events that depend on nature’s vagaries, Freckmann estimated that the wildflower display would peak in about a week.
Located a mile southwest of Arpin, Powers Bluff is one of Wood County’s parks. Wood County Park and Forestry Department Director Chad Schooley accompanied the wildflower walk and explained plans for changes to the park.
Through a land swap, the county acquired the adjoining 223-acre parcel north of the park and has begun fundraising for improvements, including a new access road, shelter building, and trails. The proposed changes will both preserve the unique cultural and environmentally sensitive areas of the park and expand opportunities for recreation in all seasons.
“The focus will be on silent sports,” noted Schooley.
“There are great opportunities for growth of both the park and the Friends organization. We invite neighbors of the park and interested individuals to play a role in that growth,” added Gene Bymers, president of Friends of Powers Bluff.
To learn more about the Powers Bluff Development Project, contact the Wood County Park and Forestry Department office at 715-421-8422 or online at co.wood.wi.us/Departments/Parks.