Visitors to the UW-Madison Arboretum can now walk the trails and learn about urban impacts on the Arboretum as they follow the path of storm water runoff as it flows through Curtis Prairie, “the world’s oldest ecologically restored prairie”, courtesy of an outreach and education project of Joy Zedler and her students at the University of Wisconsin. (Zedler is the Aldo Leopold Professor of Restoration Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the research director at the UW-Madison Arboretum.)
Using the new self-guided tour map, “Go With the Flow: A Self-Guided Walk Through Curtis Prairie”, interested visitors to the Arboretum will learn about the complex management challenges posed by storm water. As the map, known as Leaflet #24 explains:
” . . . urban runoff sustains wetland vegetation but also brings in contaminants; we also explain how the wetland improves water quality by absorbing, denaturing and removing contaminants. This reciprocal relationship complicates the Arboretum’s need to follow rules about managing both runoff and prairie vegetation.”
This straightforward guide to Curtis Prairie has 17 interpretive stops along an easy to walk distance of about one mile (travel time of 30-60 minutes) through the prairie that was the birthplace in 1935 of the modern global environmental phenomenon of restoration ecology.