If you haven’t been to Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area in awhile, have a look at these photos. The amount of damage done by folks avoiding mud puddles and climbing up around the hills and over the cliffs is extraordinary this year.
Last week I had an opportunity to see the damage first hand. At this juncture, I’m going to avoid putting my personal comments here. What I do want to do is share with you what is going on.
You see Parfrey’s Glen is over-run on weekends. While most visitors are staying on the trail or walking the stream (As is current policy) a number of people are going off the tail, climbing the cliffs and stampeding around the waterfall. I use the word stampeding because as you see, the land has been denuded around the falls. There is nothing left but mud, rocks and a few trees that so far have survived the compression of the earth around them. Many won’t survive soil compression long term.
Normally this sort of overuse is a problem anyway, but the wet season has made these behaviors exponentially more damaging. Walking on wet, muddy soil damages the plants and compacts the earth much faster than if it were dry. The slope next to Parfrey’s Glen’s waterfall was badly damaged already, now it’s just sad to see. Other areas where people have walked around puddles along the trail are now just wide areas of compacted mud where nothing will grow for years without help. Some denuded sections are 10 feet wide or more!
In addition to this, much of the volunteer work done in the spring has been ignored, walked over and sometimes even removed completely. Signs put up to close social trails have been taken down and walked around. In fact, the sign marking the end of the “Maintained Trail” was stolen for the second time in May! (It was not again replaced.) Recently people even had a campfire on top of the cliffs above the glen.
Devil’s Lake State Park is putting staff back into the glen Friday to see what can be done in a day. Of course, they have another 10,000 acres to maintain beyond Parfrey’s and can only accomplish so much. The DNR has to take a fresh look at these issues. They’ve started moving on Pewit’s Nest SNA which suffered many of the same problems. While continuing to work on Pewit’s Nest, they also need to be mindful of the legacy of Parfrey’s Glen, Wisconsin’s first designated state natural area. Parfrey’s Glen needs some real infrastructure. There’s only so much people can do by moving wood around and posting signs.
If you care about the state of Parfrey’s Glen, you know the drill. First, volunteer your time…, then call, email, complain, suggest, cajole, commiserate, whatever and with whomever it takes to make a change. I’d start here http://dnr.wi.gov/staffdir/_newsearch/contactsearchext.aspx and enter “State Natural Areas”. You’ll get a whole list of folks who are involved. But please, keep in mind that many of these folks DO want to help. What they often need is a bit of back up!
Personally, I’m going to volunteer some more time to redo the work we did in the spring and see if we can’t somehow make sure Parfrey’s Glen is a place the next generation will still actually want to see.
And to everyone who volunteers around here, we are making headway. Next week I’ll post some wonderful before and after shots of the work we’ve done around Devil’s Lake this year. We are making a difference!
***Obligatory Disclaimer: This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (Which is sometimes too bad if you ask me!).