That's What The Wilderness Preserve Is About

Bonnie Matuseski directing our volunteer trail-marking crew on MIWP’s north-end hiking/skiing trails

Bonnie Matuseski directing our volunteer trail-marking crew on MIWP’s north-end hiking/skiing trails

By Victoria Erhart, President

Saturday really was one of those magic days. I got to hike a part of the trail (Sowl entrance down to Burroughs) that I had never been on and it was exquisite: big hemlock forests, everything bright yellow. Dogs, kids and good friends, what more could you ask for?
— V.E. Oct 2014

As I sit down to write this President’s letter, I have in mind a neat list of accomplishments I want to share. Sometimes I worry the list is a little too neat; I am tidying up all the messiness: the discussions, the disagreements, the tangents and the crazy ideas that didn’t go anywhere. That’s probably not all bad. It’s a little like you’re a patron at a restaurant; do you really need to know everything that is going on in the kitchen? But just as it is important to acknowledge the cooks for a great meal, I think it is also important to acknowledge the twelve reliable, creative, hard-working, professionally and politically and philosophically diverse humans that make up the MIWP board, who with their time and brains and sweat have cobbled together what the MIWP is today. And still seem to like each other! It is a pleasure to work with each one of them.

The MIWP has been taking on the issue of island-wide woody invasives, primarily buckthorn and barberry, for a long time, and intensively for the last two years. I have written about this many times and you can read more on our new website (more about that later) but it matters enormously. Taking on these non-native invasives is one of the most important things that the MIWP does; there is no other island organization with the manpower or resources to take on a multi-year program of this magnitude. For 2015, the MIWP has hired two interns, Rebecca Flesh and Brigid Reina, well trained and articulate Northland College students whose jobs will be to act as a resource to island landowners; to identify problem areas; to publicize their program and availability; and to do the actual cutting and treatment. While these interns technically are employed by the Town of La Pointe, the MIWP provides their salaries in the form of grants and an outright gift of $10,000; we also provide supervision, aka the unstoppable Bonnie Matuseski, as well as lakeside housing. The Town of La Pointe is incredibly supportive, and it has been a joy to partner with them. Many thanks in particular to Kristian Larsen and Barb Nelson.

By the way, the MIWP feels so strongly about the invasive species issue that our Fourth of July parade float theme this year is this: Star Wars Episode MMXV, The Darth inVaders, Buckthorn and Barberry! See the full article on page 3, and join in!

I mentioned our new website. For years we have been struggling with an old and outdated website, and now we have a new one that is informative, fluid, and beautiful. Take a look: Thanks to Kate Bortell for pulling it all together.

Land ownership was the founding purpose for the MIWP (see “History” at but it has been a lot of years since the MIWP expanded its boundaries in any meaningful way. In 2014, though, we added 98 acres as four different parcels, all inland land contiguous to land we already own. Two of those parcels, one of twenty acres and one of five, are in the North End and will help us to solidify our developing North End trail system. The third is forty acres adjacent to a parcel of land that we own just west of Benjamin Boulevard, and the fourth is a 33 acre piece next to our land by the airport. I truly hope, for many good environmental and economic reasons, that there is no lingering resentment at “taking it off the tax rolls”. Every time we buy a piece of land, it passes from private hands and into the hands of the community. Wilderness Preserve lands are yours to use as you choose (but no camping or motorized vehicles). They are free. They are becoming more accessible. They are wild and they are beautiful. If you feel that your commitment to these lands is more abstract than you would like, consider joining one of our three fall hikes on the North End trails, September 5 and 19, and October 3. Walking on a clear fall day, joined by likeminded people of all ages, through magnificent hemlock forests, blue skies, yellow aspens and maples, the earth smelling that wonderful rich rotting leaf smell: more than all the words I can string together, that is what the Wilderness Preserve is about.

May you have a peaceful and joyous 2015.