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An opportunity to hike and explore nature is being planned monthly at the Gottfried Arboretum located adjacent to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Fond du Lac campus.

Lisa Mick, grounds supervisor at UWO Fond du Lac, will lead the walks. After recently moving into her role at the Fond du Lac campus, she said she “realized what an absolute gem” the property is.

“I have lived in Fond du Lac 20-plus years and was even on the board for the prairie and arboretum back in 2011 . . . but didn’t truly understand the learning potential that this property held,” she said. “I really want to promote it and add more opportunities for learning.”

The first walk is planned for 8 a.m. Saturday, April 8. The walks will take place the second Saturday of each month through November and are expected to last about two hours with a walk of the prairie, exploration of ponds and Master Gardener plant beds.

Mick said if there is continued interest, she is willing to add a variety of activities that could include invasive species removal or art projects. The walks have the potential to go through the winter and Mick is open to incorporating snowshoe hikes.

“It’s all going to come down to what people want to do with their time and what they want to learn,” she said, adding that the walks on the property offer important educational opportunities.

She hopes area schools will see the prairie and arboretum as a place to bring their students, adding “it’s just too beautiful, not to be the place to be.”

The Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum, 400 University Drive, Fond du Lac, is named for Bradley Gottfried, former dean of UWO Fond du Lac, and a major force behind the project to restore 42 acres of native prairie. There are hiking trails, a shelter, wildlife pond, wildflower display gardens and a 4.5-acre formal arboretum representing eight types of Wisconsin forest communities.

Before the prairie restoration project kicked off in 1992, the majority of land surrounding the UWO Fond du Lac campus was open lawn that was mowed.

The Gottfried Prairie and Arboretum is managed by a board made up of educators, ecologists and wildlife enthusiasts working cooperatively with the Fond du Lac County Board.

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