Promoting the enjoyment, study, and conservation of Wisconsin's birds.

There will soon be another reason to visit the Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area adjacent to Highway 151 in Sun Prairie: a unique viewing platform in the shape of a bird in flight is under construction on the west shore of the marsh by crews from Operation Fresh Start, a job-training program for at-risk youth.

The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology was among the donors for the project. 

The marsh, which began as a WisDOT wetland mitigation project and then became a joint DNR/Dane County Parks project, shows up as Brazee Lake on Google Maps. American White Pelicans have taken to hanging out on the lake for much of June and into early July, and the site hosted a Little Gull earlier this year. Most notably, in late October of 2000, the site drew a crowd to observe just the third state record for the mega-rare Fork-Tailed Flycatcher.

The official unveiling of the viewing platform is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, October 4.

The viewing platform and other improvements were made possible under a partnership that includes the Natural Heritage Land Trust, Patrick Marsh Conservancy, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Operation Fresh Start. The platform was designed by Shane Bernau of Ken Saiki Design, based on a plan he developed in 2006 while a student in landscape architecture at UW-Madison.

The platform will provide easily accessible wildlife viewing, just a short walk from the Patrick Marsh parking lot on Stone Quarry Road. The platform's shape will make it possible for an entire class of students from nearby Patrick Marsh Middle School to get a front-row view of the marsh during outdoor classroom activities. In addition, a new distinctive metal entrance gate (also in the shape of a bird) will welcome visitors at the parking lot, along with an updated information kiosk orienting visitors. Students in the Discovery Club at Patrick Marsh Middle School are designing new interpretive signs for the trails that will explain the history of the marsh from pre-settlement times until now. A new trail will connect neighborhoods on the south side of the marsh with the wildlife viewing platform.

Funding for the improvements has been provided by the Sun Prairie Rotary Club, Evjue Foundation, Rotary Foundation District 6350, the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, Courtier Foundation, Natural Resources Foundation, Dane County Environmental Council, members of the Natural Heritage Land Trust, and many community members. 

For more information about the platform, or to make a tax-deductible contribution to support this work, contact Jim Welsh, executive director of the land trust, at jim@nhlt.org or (608) 258-9797

By Jim Welsh, Natural Heritage Land Trust